Over 250 FREE mini-love-lessons touching the lives of thousands in over 190 countries worldwide!

Forgiveness - A Much-Needed Love Skill

Synopsis: This mini-love lesson starts with the question “why forgive?”; then goes on to forgiveness is about the future more than the past; a surprising reason we don’t forgive; sex and forgiveness; the risk of forgiveness; big love forgives, small love does not; growing forgiveness; and ends with a forgiveness challenge.

Why forgive?

“Forgiveness is so hard. Why should I try to do it?”  Often the answer is because not doing forgiveness is even harder.  Not forgiving frequently means not healing.

In my work as a relational therapist I have dealt with couples where one or both have shot, poisoned, stabbed or tried to run over their mate with a car and who have come to forgive those actions and all that led to them.  I have dealt with several hundred couples who have experienced infidelity, even repeated infidelity and all the deceit that goes with it and yet through forgiveness and healthy, real love development many are happy, successful couples today.

The most amazing examples of forgiveness I have seen came in my work with the parents and families of murdered children.  Parents who sit before the convicted murders of their own, most precious children and yet still offer forgiveness to those murders.  They love beyond my own love capabilities but not beyond my ability to be awed by them.  Intellectually I understand that those who do not forgive are likely to never heal and to be forever be more troubled.

Emotionally my heart goes out to those who cannot yet forgive and experience the healing which forgiveness brings.  When we forgive we are on the path to recovery.  When we forgive we can let go and let that which wounded us recede into our past.  Frequently forgiveness offers the one who is doing the forgiving more than what is offered to the one who is forgiven.  To not forgive is to not let a wound heal and continues the harm one has experienced.

Forgiveness Is about the Future More Than the Past

Forgiveness offers a chance for a cleaner, lighter, brighter future.  To not forgive poisons the future by carrying the past into it.  This works as much for the one doing the forgiveness as the one receiving it.  Honest to God, real love demands and requires forgiveness for both individuals and relationships so that the future of both has a chance. The future of both individuals and relationships can be especially sabotaged by seeking revenge, trying to ‘get even’, recrimination and bitter, endless judgmentalism.

Forgiveness does not have to be coupled with giving someone another chance but if another chance is to be attempted loving forgiveness is likely to be essential.  Forgiveness clears the way for making new and better things happen.  It is especially necessary in any ongoing, couple’s life together.  In every couple’s relationship there are small, medium and sometimes large things to be forgiven, gotten past and left behind.  This also can be true of most deep friendships and lots of family relationships.  This also is true of self forgiveness.

A Surprising Reason for Why We Don’t Forgive

“ I can’t forgive her!  I just can’t forgive her cheating on me.  I can’t forgive or forget her adultery”.  This was Jake’s painful lament as he sat in front of me to start working on his recovery from discovering his wife in bed with another.  I said, “Yes, you were hurt tremendously by your wife’s betrayal but I have to ask you, Jake, what do you have yet to learn from this terrible experience?”  Jake replied “Why do you ask that? “ My reply was “Because in my experience sometimes we cannot forgive because we have yet to learn what we need to learn”.

Jake at first was baffled.  However, in time and with work he discovered he had had a part to play which had helped motivate his wife toward cheating.  He didn’t cause it but he contributed to it, and he needed to learn his part so he wouldn’t do it again.  He slowly came to realize he too often was far too unloving, indifferent, inattentive and uncaring.  He took his wife and his marriage for granted while mostly focusing his life on career success.

Jake also prioritized being tough, strong and authoritative far above being loving or lovable.  In human interaction “winning” was much more important to him than cooperation and collaboration.  This especially was true in the way he treated his wife and his children.  Jake remembered his troubled teenage daughter once saying to him, “There’s just no way I can win with you, Dad.  So I’m going to quit trying.”  After that they grew increasingly distant from one another.

Sex and Forgiveness

One other thing Jake learned concerned his own sexuality. He was secretly afraid other men were more potent and could sexually perform better than he.  As long as he was secretly insecure, forgiving his wife’s sexual infidelity meant facing his fear that he was sexually inadequate and that his wife had sexually experienced something better than he had to offer.  However, once he had discovered and admitted this openly in therapy he became surprisingly open to developing a new and better sexuality, forgiving his wife, and starting with her again as she had asked him to do.
This is often the way it works.

Once a person learns what they need to learn about themselves and their own areas of weakness that need strengthening, it becomes a bit easier to forgive.  This can be true even for people who have been heavily brought up to believe that sexual infidelity is unforgivable.  Is it not interesting that what is sexually unforgivable in one culture is fairly unimportant in another, and even is considered admirable in still another culture.

The Risk of Forgiveness

Another reason we don’t forgive is that unless it is done with wisdom forgiveness can set you up for repeated, painful experiences.  For many people forgiveness is not offered because they fear it makes them vulnerable and more likely to be hurt again.  When forgiveness is seen as something ‘you do in your heart’ and that it is all right to join forgiveness with adequate self protection, it becomes an easier choice (See the entry Forgiveness in Healthy Self-Love).

It is important to realize that forgiveness can put you at risk.  It is perfectly healthy to limit your risk to something you are pretty sure you can handle.  Could you say and mean something like “I forgive you but I have my own problem of being vulnerable and repeating my own mistakes, so I’m not going to return to our relationship again.  Therefore, I forgive you and wish you well.  Goodbye.”  That’s one way to deal with the risk of forgiveness.

Love often takes risking or gambling on the person you love.  That often means you do give them another chance and risk again experiencing deception, betrayal and emotional pain.  Strong and sufficient love often pushes us to forgive and risk again.  That does not mean to try in ways that enable and reward being used and misused endlessly.  Cooperatively making a clearly defined contract or agreement before starting over may help to minimize the risk and pain.

Big Love Forgives, Small Love Does Not

Some people never forgive the transgressions committed against them (real or imagined).  Some hold grudges until the day they die.  Those who are big enough and strong enough to forgive, give their love relationships a chance for renewal and new, ongoing success.  Without forgiveness many, perhaps most, love relationships deteriorate and die, or at least become comatose.  Forgiveness often takes being brave and loving in a big way.

If your own personal strengths are too weak or your love not powerful don’t forgive because you may not survive what you risk.  However, if your love is real, big and bold and you have powerful character strengths forgiveness maybe is what it will take to achieve a great, lasting, love relationship.  Sheila said, “He forgave me when no one else would.  How can I not love him more and better than anyone else and choose to spend my life with him?”  Some of the best love relationships could not come into being until there was great forgiveness – given and received.  That is the way of big love.

Growing Forgiveness

If you are having trouble forgiving someone for something there are ways to work on it  and win yourself the freedom forgiveness brings.  You can work on coming to understand why someone choose a path of action that hurt you.  If you can see through their eyes, feel their feelings and comprehend their thinking it may give you considerable assistance in the forgiving process.  Understanding is best done with compassion and empathy.  You don’t have to agree or call what they did ‘right’ to do that.  You also can work to understand how your own actions and words may have contributed to their transgressions.  Furthermore, you can work to understand your weakness which made you so vulnerable to being hurt, and from that you may find a way to grow stronger and defend against that vulnerability.

Another work you can do is to accept that you and all other humans are imperfect beings prone to making mistakes and needing forgiveness so that progress can go on.  Sometimes it helps to know that major religions the world over preach and teach forgiveness as the way of love.  If you work at it you can grow forgiveness and if you do not you may be stuck in the self poisoning of non-forgiveness.  If you are in a ongoing, love relationship with a lover, spouse, friend or family member and are not sufficiently forgiving, or they are not, see if you can both go to a good relational, love-oriented therapist who can help both of you get forgiveness to start growing.  Lasting love relationships require forgiveness skills and practices, or they don’t last.

There are books to read which can help.  May I suggest you take a look at Dare to Forgive by Dr. E.M. Hollowell, and Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope by a Dr. Worthington.  There are lots of counselors and therapists, and especially couples and family therapists, who are good at assisting two or more people with growing forgiveness and its many mutual benefits.

The Forgiveness Challenge

If you are going to do healthy, real love of anyone I suggest you develop your forgiveness skills.  Every human relationship that is ongoing will need some forgiveness, sometimes a lot of forgiveness.  The nature of love itself challenges you to be forgiving so that healing, repairing and love’s continuation can happen.  It is important that your forgiveness be done wisely so that it does not reward and reinforce dysfunction.  It often is important that your forgiveness be abundant and generous, but also wisely given.

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Who have you not forgiven, for what, and what effect is that having on you?

Love Bears All Things

Mini-Love-Lesson  #249

Synopsis: Here we raise into awareness love’s amazing power for enduring life’s difficulties and destroyers; along with some myths about love’s inadequacy and pathology; a fuller meaning of “bearing”; love relating while bearing all things; possibly wrong and “psycho sick” interpretations and ending with thoughts for developing your own endurance-providing love strength.

Love’s Power for Enduring

Indications of the great and often incredible power of love are able to be perceived as one explores this, the 12th of Paul’s tenants on love.  Think about it.  To be able to bear all things requires monumental strength for empowering stupendous endurance.  Does love really do this?  Countless examples of exactly that are to be found in the history of what people have done with love power.  Risking their own lives, many have saved their loved one’s lives in deadly situations.  Others have ceaselessly searched for and finally discovered their long-lost beloved ones.  Still others have worked for decade upon decade to discover a cure for the disease-afflicted for whom they care deeply.  Millions of others have continued endlessly, supporting and fighting side-by-side for their loved ones who faced overwhelming trials and tribulations.  All these exemplify and offer proof of the endurance power real love gives.

In my own long career as a therapist, I have seen the brave, steadfast power of love empower people to endure seemingly impossible pain, ongoing horrendous stressors, lengthy threatening situations and lifelong heartbreaking occurrences.  Often, but not always, love brought a prevailing ability to survive and often eventually become victorious over monstrous problems.  Without the strength of authentic love, I am quite sure such outcomes would not have been achievable and those involved probably would not have survived.

The Myths That Love Is Weak, Ephemeral Or Bad for You

There are those that have proclaimed love to be a fuzzy, fickle falsehood that makes people weak and powerless.  Some have held that love is an insubstantial, puny, whimsical thing of no lasting consequence.  Still others posit that those involved in love are being entrapped by a seriously de-powering and very detrimental and destructive addiction.

I like to contrast those ideas with the health, psychosocial and animal comparative researchers who have discovered love behaviors to be crucial and powerful for higher life form’s survival and advancement.  Then there are the brain scientists who are discovering more and more about the brain regions and chemistry for processing love and finding them  to be very real and very powerful.  Add to that, the relational scientists who have found the most lasting and healthiest relationships are the ones saturated with the actions that convey love.  Lastly, we also can point to the biblical teaching about love’s power, that no one has greater empowering love than those that lay down their lives for another.  Every day all over the world there are people who, out of love, are risking or sacrificing their own lives for the well-being of others.  Sometimes this is done in a crisis and sometimes in the slow enduring way.

My suspicion is that the nay-sayers of love have not been looking at healthy, real love but rather at various forms of unhealthy, false love (see the “False Forms of Love” series).

The preponderance of evidence points to authentic and well grown love being of enormous power enabling people to survive and thrive, frequently even as they bear all things hurtful and harmful.  Countless love-active parents, comrades, love mates, siblings and strong deep friends have done courageous and long-lasting acts because of their love.  This gives ever mounting evidence to the conclusion that strong, healthy, real love can indeed Bear All Things.

The Fuller Meaning of “Bear” for Your Life

Think about what may be covered by the word BearTo bear means to hold up under pressure, endure that which is painful, trying, difficult, hard and/or difficult.  Also to bear is to have the power to withstand while going without adequate support or sustenance.  It can mean not to flinch, break, retreat, surrender, compromise or be crushed.

To Bear also means to carry forward, take on, take to, and deliver unto.  Sometimes to bear can indicate to resist, buck, abide, tolerate, and/or to allow.

Love, healthy real and well-developed love, is seen here as making all the above not only possible but likely when severe and long-lasting difficulties bear down upon you and you remain love-centered (see “Love Centering Yourself”).

Love Relating While Bearing All Things

One of the most important features of love is that it keeps love relationships going as they face hard times.  I saw this most clearly in my work with the parents and families of murdered children striving not to be driven apart and dragged down by this horrendous experience.  I also frequently saw the power of love in helping people endure and co-recover from the anguish of infidelity, the destructive effects of addictions, the miseries of various forms of mental illness and a great deal more.  With enough love and well developed love-relating, all these can be endured and, more often than not, overcome.  This especially is true when receiving some love knowledgeable, caring, professional help.  By the way, you also can apply these concepts to your own self-love relationship.

Interpretation Quandaries

It is always possible we are using a wrong interpretation.  I see that as a good reason to look at a wide variety of translation possibilities as we explore what Paul, in the New Testament, put forth about love.  However, remember finding the one true, right, perfect, translation of anything seems to be beyond human capability.  For constructive cognition, being open to differing ideas of new and ever widening understandings seems to work better.  It also is psychologically more healthful.  As a rule, trying for perfection often tends to block and/or slow progress and can prevent improvement.

In regard to this 12th precept of Paul’s, I explored over 30 translation efforts.  The most numerous of Paul’s Greek “panta stegie” was “love bears or beareeth  all things”.  This interpretation occurred 14 times.  The intriguing variety of other translations included love “never gives up”, “puts up with all things”, “never stops being patient”, “patiently accepts all things”, “puts up with anything”, “always protects” and “she (I like the inclusion of a feminine factor) knows when to be silent” - see my caveat below.

The most different translation I found being considered by some scholars reads something like “love covers the unpleasant in others with quiet” and “love cloaks over what is displeasing in others”.  To this mental health professional, both of those interpretations sound rather pathological and the one about a “she staying silent” quite dubious.

Hebrew issues exist concerning the type or kind of love meant by Paul.  It is suspected that when Paul taught in Hebrew he probably used the form of the word love called Ahava which has to do with very actively giving caring love.  That conveys a meaning somewhat different than using some of the other love words available.  Some of these other love word possibilities suggest Paul could have meant a more maternal type love, or a more brotherly type love, or altruistic love or even chaotic love.  Paul also may have taught in Aramaic that has its own words for love which may possess additional connotations and shades of meaning.

It is interesting that the Hebrew word Ahava sometimes has been interpreted as being similar in meaning to the Greek Agape love and Metta love in Sanskrit.  All these interpretation factors and issues can be used to inform and broaden our understanding of what might be included in the meaning of this 12th tenant of Paul’s.

“Psycho-Sick” Interpretations

Mental health professionals working in the environs of Christendom tend to get rather familiar with psychologically toxic understandings of the Bible.  Here we seem to have a passage that unfortunately lends itself to such psychopathological possibilities.  “Bears all things” has been used to justify needless and useless self-sacrifice, self-flagellation and other forms of self-inflicted bodily harm, destructive self-denial and syndromes in which people experience profound guilt over having not suffered enough.  Other interpretations such as “love puts up with all things” have been used as justification for accepting abuse.  It also can be a prescription for unknowingly rewarding and encouraging seriously abusive and destructive behaviors.

These sorts of interpretations can be seen as teaching people to become docile victims.  They also can be seen as manipulative justifications for sociopaths and psychopaths who use Bible quotes, like “love patiently accepts all things”, for their own ends and against the well-being of others.

Accepting a strict interpretation of  “bears all things” as a Christian duty has helped put no small number of wives into hospitals and/or early graves, not to mention men into jail for wife beating and murder.  It also has been ruinous for children growing up in homes where toxic religiosity, rather than religion, is manipulatively and abusively practiced.

The “she knows when to be silent”, along with the “covers”, “cloaks” or “ throws a cloak of silence” New Testament descriptions, seem perversely useful for curbing free speech, suppressing individuality, encouraging authoritarian relationships and getting away with the criminal use and misuse of the naïve, gullible, trusting and less self assertive of those among us.

It seems to me, though I am of course heavily biased, that most all scriptural passages might do well to have a psychological health commentary available or accompanying them.  Ah, if it were only so.

Developing Your Endurance Love Strength

To grow your love, healthy real love that is, is to grow your courage, your power for positive impact and your cooperation skills; it also means you are likely to grow your love bonds with others and your ability to bear all things.  Also involved here is growing your self love, your other love, your spiritual love and probably your love of life.

What do you do to grow your enduring love strength?  You exercise it!  First you do what you are doing now which is to study love and love relating.  As you continue to do that, find yourself opportunities for doing love action that are not so easy to do.  Maybe you volunteer to work with the disadvantaged or get really involved in a political action group working with or for a cause needed and helpful for the less able.  Maybe you practice giving love via volunteering at a handicapped children’s camp, Red Cross, Good Will stores, library literacy programs, etc.  Then maybe someday you can go on to children’s cancer wards, hospice, campaigns for assistance to the abused elderly or anything you think might be difficult for you.  Yes, your heart may be wrenched in the process but it also may be amazingly enriched and strengthened.

You also can learn and think more about love itself and, as you do so, you can practice giving your love as well as working to receive love and soak it up as much as possible.  In times of trouble, you can get and give caring compassionate love and in times of goodness, you can do joy and happy love as much as you can and in ordinary times, you can give out a countenance of lovingness everyday.  At least, that is how I see it today.  Now, what do you think?

I hope you will not have a great deal to Bear in your future but, if you do, perhaps what you have just read will help some.  It also might help some others you know or encounter.  So, you could tell them about what you have just read and that might help them too.  If you do, please talk a little about this mini-love-lesson and this site.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question: Is love better seen as something you fall into, or something that falls on you, or as something you give?

Growing Closeness - A Love Skill

Synopsis: This love skill lesson starts with comments on growing close love; and goes on to understanding closeness; the emotional guidance messages in closeness; sexual closeness; trouble, communication and closeness; and ends with other closeness helpers.

Growing Close Love

“I feel so close to you.”  “I feel we are growing apart.”  “We used to be so close but now it seems we’re distant.”  “How do we get close again?”  In love relationships feeling close usually is very desirable and very important.  Feeling distant usually is seen as hurtful and harmful in a love relationship.  Growing a love relationship that is full of closeness helps the relationship grow stronger and last longer.  But how is it that people actually get to feel close and what happens to make them feel distant from one another?

Understanding Closeness

It is important to note closeness is a feeling or, more accurately, an emotional state.  When we feel the emotion called ‘close’ we also tend to feel good, safe, satisfied, connected and quite likely we have a sense of wellness.  When we feel distant we tend to feel the opposite of all that – more alone, isolated, unsatisfied, unsafe, apprehensive and if it goes on too long depressed. Feeling close to someone we love and who loves us is very healthy and generally quite good for us, as well as for whoever we are feeling close to.  Closeness tends to relieve stress, improve a number of biological functions, and can result in a sense of love-filled serenity.

Emotional Guidance

Our emotions give us guidance.  The guidance message we get from closeness tells us we are with someone who it is good for us to be with.  Feeling close with a person we love guides us into feeling increasingly nurtured and safe.  Sometimes that can be false or a mistake, but generally not.  Feeling emotionally distant directs us into thinking something is not right and we would do well to strive for increased closeness one way or another.

Compatibility and Closeness

The more people experience that they are compatible with each other, the more they are likely to grow a sense of closeness with each other.  Agreeableness and having similar experiences, backgrounds, interests, tastes and preferences can facilitate the growth of closeness. Compatibility tends to grow when people are willing to experiment with each other’s ways and be open to each other’s ideas, wishes, views and ways of being.  Being able to convey your own ways and be ok about someone else’s ways of being themselves is a tremendous help in compatibility and closeness-creation.

Since all humans and most mammals seem to experience emotions in very similar ways, there can be sufficient, natural compatibility for fostering at least some closeness with anyone and with many of our cousins in the animal world.  Thus, it is that loving closeness often is felt by pet owners and apparently by the pets they relate to.

Closeness Starters

Love-based, emotional closeness frequently starts and grows with the showing and sharing of one’s more personal self.  This especially is true with the sharing of a person’s more private and intimate emotions.  Sharing implies a two or more person process.  In this process one person lets some of their feelings be seen.  This is done by facial expressions, tones of voice, gestures, posture changes and the spoken word.  It can be done by the written word but that’s much trickier.  Then the person hearing or seeing another person’s demonstrations of what they are feeling responds in a receptive and understanding manner.  They may have a sympathetic look on their face, kind tones of voice, or say words that indicate emotional understanding.  From that, emotional closeness often starts and/or grows.

Two or more people can demonstrate emotional understanding to each other and a sort of core appreciation.  They can show respect and empathy for each other.  And if they don’t let a number of other things get in the way like judgmentalism, or giving too much advice, or being diverted to other matters then closeness becomes much more likely.

Smiles, caring looks and other positive facial expressions, pleasant tones of voice, affectionate touch, demonstrating patience, thoughtfulness and tolerance, along with showing someone how they are highly valued and special to you are all very important in starting, maintaining and growing closeness-filled love.

Sharing experiences together in which feelings show and are freely expressed also is a big help in starting and keeping closeness growing.  Any experience shared together which generates ‘different than usual’ or strong feelings may bring about a sense of closeness growing.  Talking about previous, individual experiences and joint experiences also can be helpful if the emotions and sometimes the physical feelings involved are voiced with emotional expression.

Being earnest and honest in situations where others might be more closed or guarded is sometimes a huge help for people starting to feel real with and close to each other.  Receiving sincere, honest expressions from another needs to be met with acceptance, respect, tolerance, and kindness for closeness to have a chance to grow.  Judgmentalism, personal disapproval, demeaning, discounting and other negating communications are best to be absent.

Closeness and Two Kinds of Love

The type of love behavior known as ‘Self-disclosure love’ [see entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love” at this link] and the type of love behavior known as ‘Affirmational love’ [see entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love” at this link] are very much involved in growing a close love.  Disclosing one’s real self and going “psychologically naked” with a loved one often is felt as very risky but perhaps essential for growing great closeness.  When a person does this with you, responding with affirmational love words and actions which show care, understanding and respect affirms their most intimate nature.

Generally affirming the person brave enough to reveal their real self to you, makes for powerful closeness.  Of course, then you also best go psychologically naked in return for the cycle to be completed and for both of you to be close to each other.

Some people managed to do all this behaviorally and pretty much without words, but words that indicate self-disclosure love and affirmational love usually speed and greatly aid this two-part process.

Sexual Closeness

Many couples grow their sense of closeness with each other by way of their shared, intimate sexuality.  Sharing their bodies, their sexual desires, their ways of pleasuring, their turn-ons, idiosyncrasies, erotic fantasies, intimate and unique preferences, thoughts, feelings and ways of sexually expressing themselves is involved here.  The self-disclosure of letting themselves be known sexually and letting themselves sexually know another while responding with affirmation type love can make for incredible love-filled closeness.  It takes people responding to each other in these ways to grow that special closeness and it takes not letting fears and anti-sexual programming get in the way.

Trouble, Communication and Closeness

Letting and helping a person tell you whatever is in them to tell you is a great way to enhance closeness.  Lovingly hearing and expressing realness in the ways you and a loved one relate often is vital to the continuation of closeness.  Whenever there is dissonance or disagreement, communicating in loving ways can help the closeness continue in spite of the difficulties being encountered.  To be able to convey that you continue to value a person, though you may not like some of their behaviors, is important for the continuance of closeness when trouble is afflicting a love relationship.  Learning to talk without blame, personal disapproval, putdowns, guilt trips and offense defensiveness (see entry Non-defensiveness – A Love Skill) is also very important to the continuation of closeness.

Other Closeness Helpers

Closeness implies both emotional and physical proximity.  Getting physically and intimately close to someone, when they are receptive, helps closeness grow.  Being intimately close also allows for intimate loving touch which also is a great help to many people’s closeness feelings. Loving touch can begin with simple short tap-touching, then move to brief pause touches, followed by friendship hugs, and later cuddling and caressing.  In this process it’s important to back off if any discomfort is indicated by the response.  Laughing together, acting silly together and being helpful to one another also can enhance the start and growth of closeness feelings between people.
As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Who would you like to feel closer to, and what will you do about that?

Love Rejoices In The Truth

Mini-Love-Lesson  #248

Note: This is the 11th in our series What Is Love?: A New Testament Reply based on Paul’s description of love and informed by discoveries in relational science

Synopsis: Here is provocative help in examining your relationship with truth as it applies to issues of you and love, examining your inner and outer truth sources, the genius of truth versus wrong instead of right, and helping yourself and your love relationships through truth rejoicing.

You and Truth

What is your relationship with truth like?  Can you be truthful with yourself in answering that question?  If you can, the answers to the following queries may both help and surprise you.

Deep down in, do you usually really want the truth?  Do you usually really give the truth as best you know it to be?  Do you sometimes hide from the truth?  How are you with honestly admitting the truth when you are shown to be wrong?  Could you be one of those people who is usually quite sure you are right and others are not?  Can you face difficult truths well?

How important is accuracy to you?  What about you and revealing the complete truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; and when is that not a good idea to you?  How are you with both giving and receiving white lies, embellishments, spin, avoiding hurt feelings and slanting the truth in your favor?  Are you good at lovingly being truly magnanimous (seeing both sides) as differing and disagreeable truths are presented to you?

You, Truth and Love

In love relationships, and especially in romantic love, truth has been largely but subtly discredited and, in a sense, quite frequently taught against.  So many romantic love stories are tales of deceit and subterfuge done for the sake of succeeding at love (see “Lies And Love”).  No small number of books exist about how to use deception to attract a mate, catch a mate, keep a mate, control a mate and even cheat on a mate and not get caught (see “Betrayal in Love and Handling It Well”).  They all tend to ignore the super important love question “can something real be built out of something false?”.

The evidence for truth in love being necessary is pretty strong and that is true not only for romance but for love relationships with kids, friends, family, comrades and even with oneself.  I know that in my long career of having counseled thousands of couples, families and alternate lifestyle relationships, I have seen significant lies and falsehoods work better than truth – maybe only four times (see “Compersion: A Newly Identified Emotion of Love?”).  I hope that you at least suspect that in the long run truth, even hard truth, mixed with love works far better than falsehood.

Let’s look at love and truth in your life.  Are you more or less truthful to the people you love?  Do you think they are mostly truthful with you?  Do you think your way of treating them encourages or discourages your loved ones telling you their truth?  Do you see giving your truth as a way of giving your love?  If you tell a hard to hear truth do you mix it with love i.e. gentle tones, caring facial expressions, affectionate touch, comforting gestures, etc.?

Are you prone to watering down some truths, making it sound better than it actually is or perhaps seeing it through rose colored glasses?  Is being unnecessarily blunt, abrupt, brutal, harsh, mean, cruel and sometimes using truth as a weapon to hurt or be harmful in your repertoire?

Paul told us to rejoice in the truth.  Do you do that?  Paul seems to indicate real love motivates us toward truthfulness and truth works against wrongfulness and toward doing right.  What are your thoughts about that?

So, even though your culture and perhaps your upbringing may have taught you against it, are you good and getting better at doing love with truth?  Do you want that skill and to be good at it?

What Is Your Truth about Truth?

Truth, for us humans, is a whole lot more complicated than a lot of people seem to think.  It would appear that about truth we all “see through a glass darkly” as the Bible says.  Arguably, for us to rejoice in truth, it will help to have a fair understanding of truth and its complications.  Here is an example.  In an area called phenomenological psychology, experiments show that no two people ever have precisely or exactly the same perception, concept, or truth about anything.  Different people mean different understandings of everything.  So, if you go far enough into exactitude, you will find diversity not sameness.  I suggest That Is a Truth To Rejoice About because it means sharing our diverse truths can be ever so intriguing, enriching, enlightening and bonding if we do it with enough love.  Otherwise, it could just mean trouble.

Who and what do you trust to give you the truth?  Where do you suppose, what you call truth, comes from?  Do you think you really have trustworthy ways to discern truth from falsehood?  It would appear Paul sees Deity as wanting us to, via love, seek the truth, find the truth, live the truth, see truth as opposed to the wrong, and rejoice with and in the truth.  I find it interesting that, as usually translated, Paul did not juxtapose right from wrong but instead used the word for truth.  In philosophy, truth often has been linked with concepts of right, goodness, justice, beauty, fairness, well-being, virtue, righteousness, etc.  Ergo, is this indicative of the truth being more important than being right?  That certainly is not true for some people.  How about for you?

In your life, do you think truth usually is easy or hard to ascertain?  Have your ways of deciding what is true and what is not worked well for you or not?  Are you open to finding new and perhaps better ways of discovering and working with truth in your life?  How about in your love life?

Inner and Outer Truth Sources

We all can be said to have available two sources of what we decide is our source of truth.  One can be called our inner source.  This can encompass our reasoning, IQ, insightfulness, gut reactions, expanse of knowledge, type and form of habitual cognition, accessibility to our subconscious, emotional proclivities and more.  Some rely on this inner source almost exclusively and others as little as possible.

Our second source can be called outer and it may include popular consensus, conformity pressure, authority figures, religion, preponderances of facts and data, science, global awareness, philosophical frameworks, historical trends, parents and family, status figures, influential charismatics, friendships, spouses, lovers and news media, etc.  Some rely on one or more outer sources almost exclusively and others hardly at all.  How about you?  Do you know yourself well enough to know what you really are relying on and how much you are counting on that as your prime outer sources?

Now, factor this in.  Some psychological research points to most people depending on a rather undependable source for deciding what is true and not true.  That source is what their subconscious impulses, conditioning and emotions nudge them toward believing about what is or is not true.  This can enable quick decisions but not necessarily good ones.

It turns out our subconscious sense often is heavily influenced by how it has been programmed in childhood to guide a person.  It also is influenced by our psycho-neurobiology.  For example, who becomes your first mate choice is thought to be mostly a non-conscious impulse driven choice for the majority of people.  Scientific research predominantly points to your prevailing gender preference, psychologically and biologically, mostly to be coming from your genetics.  This also can be true even for some of your political leanings and vacation preferences.  To what degree those things are true for individuals varies as does how much those things are affected by psycho-social factors.  Reason and facts often have very little to do with a great many of the choices we make unless we train ourselves to give them high importance (see “What Your Brain Does with Love – Put Simply”).

Right and Wrong Versus Truth

What we humans call right and wrong is very problematic.  That is because so much of what is called right in one culture is called wrong in another.  The same can be said of different times in history.  Furthermore, a great many things called wrong in one era become either right in another era or of no particular consequence one way or the other.  In certain places and times not so long ago, a member of royalty loving a commoner was considered a scandalous wrongdoing.  Actually this is still forbidden and even punishable by death in a few places.  The same is true for love between people of two different religions.  However, the prohibitions against interracial love and non-his and her standard gender love still exist but are fading or are under attack all over the world.  Love itself is becoming the truth that is important rather than the classification’s status in which that love is done.

Perhaps this is the genius of using the term “truth” juxtaposed to the word “wrong” and instead of the word “right” in Paul’s teachings about love.  One way I see this goes like the following.  If we use healthfulness as the standard for arriving at what is right, we might have a much greater possibility of developing a far wider consensus about what we view as right and wrong.  That in turn perhaps could at least reduce some of the contentious and destructive disagreements about who is and what is right or wrong going on in large and small relationship struggles all over today’s world.  Arguably and in a sort of haphazard way, that very thing seems actually to be something of a slowly spreading trend.  There is reason to suspect Compassionate Love (see “Compassionate Love, A Big Sign of True Love?”) and what is healthful, both individually and collectively, are increasingly a mutually emerging goal of people in a great many different places around our planet.  Wouldn’t that be a truth to rejoice in?  It seems likely that Paul and also perhaps Moses might concur. 

Perhaps thinking along these lines may be of help in your own personal life.  It has for me and for others I know.

A “Best” Translation?

There are well over 20 English translations of the Bible and other partial and in the works translations that exist.  Here we are dealing with what Paul wrote as “sugchairei de te aletheeia” interpreted here as “love rejoices with the truth”.  Some other translations variously read “love takes pleasure in the flowering of the truth”, “is full of joy when the truth is spoken”, “joyfully sides with the truth”, “rejoices whenever truth wins out” and a favorite of mine “forsooth it (love)  joyeth with truth”.

Eight translations read “love rejoices in the truth” and eleven as “love rejoices with the truth”.  There are others with minor variations of those two.  Remember, all translations can be used for studying and pondering what Paul hoped readers would understand from this 11th precept on love.

Rejoicing with Truths

Rejoicing, perhaps with loved ones, as you discover new truths and as you hear about others’ discoveries and understandings can be ever so enriching.  Rejoicing also can help you plant memories of what has been discovered or understood, as well as motivate further searching for more truths.  Rejoicing together with loved ones helps love bonds grow as does lovingly exploring, sharing, discussing and even disagreeing about sundry discoveries and understandings.  Yet, there are some issues and concerns to look at.

What do you do if you come across a new discovery or fact that differs from what you thought was true?  Do you get upset, deny ignore, denounce, work to disprove, or what?  Or do you get intrigued, want to look into it further, see it as a challenge for integrating into your compendium of knowledge, regard it as an anomaly to be tolerated but not unduly troubled by, or what?  Can you perhaps have fun with it?

What do you do if, from a loved one, you hear something indicating their truth does not coincide with yours?  Will you be lovingly magnanimous seeking to really understand their understandings, as well as your loved ones personal feelings about the matter?  Bare in mind, we imperfect humans seem to manage only imperfect understandings i.e. “see through a glass darkly”.  We also delightedly can learn there always is more to learn about everything, even contradictory truths.

How are you at handling bad truth and scary truth like a cancer diagnoses or your most dearly beloved doesn’t want you in their life anymore?  Do you get busy checking it out to see if it is really true, look for what you can do about this bad or scary truth, get some help in dealing with it, seek to understand it more deeply and learn from it, or instead of those ways, fall into one form of dysfunction or another and stay stuck there.

How are you and handling good and happy truth?  Do you let yourself really enjoy good truths, share them with others, linger with them, fully soak them up and let them nourish you as you celebrate positive truths?  Do you let good truths inspire, energize and motivate you?  I hope so, because that is what they are good for, along with “upper” feeling truths being able to trigger a lot of health-making responses in our neurobiology.  It turns out rejoicing is really good for you and when shared it is good for your love relationships.

One More Thing – share these ideas with some others and while you’re at it, we would be pleased if you would recommend this site to them.  Remember, it’s all about helping real and healthy love-relating and it’s free, totally free.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question – When you give your truth, do you also give your love?

Anti-Love Myth # 2: You Will Have Eyes Only for Me

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson starts with some shock and dismay examples; goes on to examples of the ‘totally opposite’; then asks some intimate questions; gives intimate and surprising answers; discusses unnecessary breakups; and ends with ideas of what to do if this love myth is giving you trouble.

Examples of Shock and Dismay

Angela crashed into despair!  She just had discovered porn on her fiancé’s computer. Along with her shock and dismay her self-esteem was blown away by this revelation.  She was sure that if her man wanted to look at other women it must mean he did not really love her.  It also must mean her looks were insufficient and inadequate to hold her lover’s interest and keep him attracted.  She wondered how she could have been so gullible and naïve as to believe her fiancé when he told her he “ had eyes only for her”.

Bradford first became furious, then hurt and then confused after he found his new wife reading a trashy, super-sexual romance novel and sexually pleasuring herself.  He lamented that he had thought only he could get her ‘turned on’.  He wondered, was she secretly a ‘bad woman’ and not ‘good’ like he had thought?  Had she purposely deceived him?  Did she really not love him?  Had he married the wrong woman?  Previously Bradford was sure women were different from men, and a woman who loved him would “have eyes only for him”.

Caroline intimately revealed to Derek, her lover, that she wanted him to take her to a nudist beach because she wanted to see naked men and their “special parts” which “secretly fascinated” her.  Derek couldn’t handle it and broke up with her knowing that he had to have a woman that would “have eyes only for him” and his special parts.

Eleanor and Flynn got into big fights every time they went out in public because she repeatedly caught him secretly ogling other females.  Flynn explained he couldn’t help it and Eleanor accused him of being a sex addict, and not really loving her because if he did he would “have eyes only for her”.

Those Totally Opposite

Contrast the above situations with these.  Helen described feeling really intimately close and wonderfully naughty when her husband was able to tell her about his sex fantasies concerning other females.  She began pointing out sexy looking women in crowds and asking him what he imagined when he saw them.  Then he started doing the same with her which led to them rushing home to have all sorts of sexy times together.

Isaac bragged that he knew he really had a special wife when early in their marriage she got him  subscriptions to Playboy and Penthouse magazines, and they began looking at the sexy pictures together.  Later they got into Internet couples porn.  Isaac was sure that helped he and his wife be more emotionally close and intimate than many couples achieve.

Wanda advised her friends that in her opinion “a man who doesn’t look and lust at lots of different women isn’t a real man and, therefore, wasn’t worth having”.

Kevin explained that he discovered his wife was very sexual when she shared her orgy dreams with him.  Sometimes they role-played the orgy dreams, each acting like they were various other people, some of whom they actually knew.

Intimate Questions

How is it that one woman loses her self-confidence when her guy looks at other women, while another feels more intimately special and connected to her guy when he shares doing the same thing?  Why is it one guy gets angry when his wife enjoys looking at other men, while another guy gets turned on by that?  Why does one couple grow closer when they openly lust for others while another couple breaks up over this sort of thing?

Please note:  In this mini-love-lesson about a love myth we are discussing ‘looking’ and ‘sharing’, ‘not acting upon’ the lusty thoughts with someone outside the couple relationship.

Intimate And Surprising Answers

One answer to the above questions comes from the world of ‘positive psychology and psychotherapy’.  As people develop healthy self-love, self appreciation, self-esteem and self-confidence they come to trust their own attraction power more, and more.  Consequently, they are not much threatened with the fear of a lover being attracted away to someone else.  If it were to happen, their solid sense of being attractive and worthy helps them know they would tend to attract new, quality lovers, if they want to.

Some, more psycho-pathologically oriented, posit the ‘issue of projection’ to answer these questions.  Sometimes what we see in others is actually what is more true of ourselves. Fearing someone will be attracted away or cheat because of looks or other attraction issues may mean the one having the fear might do the same thing.  They project onto another what could be secretly true of themselves.

The social sciences offer another approach to answering these questions.  There is evidence suggesting it’s ‘all in the culture and family influences’ that get inside our heads as we grow up.  If you are brought up believing “my lover will have eyes only for me” you may be severely disappointed if it doesn’t work out that way.  If, however, your upbringing teaches you something like “looks do not determine love”, your lover looking with lust at others is likely not to mean so much to you.  Were you to be brought up in a culture that says “looking is part of the fun and to be shared with your love-mate” you probably would look forward to it.

We have the brain sciences to thank for providing the most recent answer to these types of questions.  Brain functioning evidence points to some very intriguing facts.  It seems that most men, and quite a few women, are neurologically ‘hardwired’ to enjoy looking at a variety of sexy appearing and acting people whenever they can.  That has nothing to do with love or commitment.  It’s just a natural, automatic, neurologically-caused phenomenon.  Apparently more women than men are auditorily or tactically, sexually stimulated, so for them the sounds of voices, the spoken word and various kinds of touch will be noticed more than good looks.

Unnecessary Breakups

Sadly a lot of relationships breakup over the “you look at others” issue.  It appears that highly, visually-oriented people will look at others they find attractive, no matter what.  It seems it’s just in their nature to do so.  By itself this behavior is not a threat to a relationship.  What is a threat is the interpretation that ‘looking’ behavior gets.  If the interpreter is insecure about their own attraction power, the interpretation is likely to be negative and fear-based.  That, in turn, probably will cause relationship difficulties.  With more self security and ‘owning’ one’s okayness, things usually get better.  If the person doing the looking tries to hide it, lies about it, promises not to do it again but does, things in the relationship are likely to get worse.

What to Do

If you are upset because your love-mate ‘looks’ at others, maybe it’s you and your relationship that needs some help.  So get some!   If your love-mate has trouble because you are ‘looking’ and that’s leading to relationship difficulties, be kind and loving about your love-mate’s possible insecurity.  Then go get some help.  We can de-program and re-program and get past this sort of love myth problem, and usually it’s faster with good help.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question If you have a ‘looking’ issue, what is your attitude about getting the coaching help that can come with relationship counseling?