“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” ~ Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island …
It scares me to imagine the vain conceit apparent in the phrase, “we love only the reflection of ourselves.” Instead of building up love, the consequences of such thoughts only serve to isolate us and tear apart our love piece by piece. It is a shame that so many relationships exist in which one individual is constantly trying to control the other. “Lose some weight,” “Do not talk like that,” “Do not cut your hair,” “Do not wear this,” “Why do you always,”. . . the list of do this, and do not do that goes endlessly on.
As unique persons, we are each called to love one another exactly as we are–to live and let live–for we each were created in the image of our God… a perfect Being who is love. In truth, love does not try to control others or change them into the image we wish them to be. True love is encouraging someone else to live up to their unique potential, to embrace their likes and respect their dislikes, to allow them wear the clothes they feel comfortable in, and to live their lives as they chose rather than how we see fit for them. Love is not having a trophy partner or a submissive partner… love is being with another human being who is “perfectly himself or herself.”
So why do we so often try to nurture the reflection of ourselves that we see? Why do we try to convince our loved ones to do things in the ways that we would do them? Why do we get angry, upset, and frustrated when they do something on their own that we very clearly know we would never do? Why do we feel so proud and happy when they follow our advice and approach something in exactly the way that we would?
In our relationships–and definitely in our marriages–we must remember what love truly is. We read in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
When we stop trying to control others, they feel more loved and respected, which allows them to begin to shine in their own unique ways. Still, of equal importance, when we let go of our need to control others, we discover that we now have the ability to redirect all the energy that we had been using to control them, towards making our own lives more satisfying and fulfilling. We are inconstant beings, but that does not mean we cannot allow others to be themselves.
If you find yourself telling someone not to do or be something today, stop, and try to allow them to be themselves (as long as it is not harmful to themselves or others).
Questions to consider:
What kinds of role models teach us that controlling another persons thoughts or actions is an appropriate way to approach a relationship?
How can we know that we are not letting someone else be themselves? How can we know that someone else is not letting us be ourselves?
What does it mean to you to let someone else be “perfectly themselves”?
For further thought:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116