Where To Put The Love?

Raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie, Magnolia.  (Just kidding, I can’t see your hands anyway.)  It’s been several years since I first saw the flick, yet it remains one of my all-time favorites.  Call me crazy, I really like exquisitely sad movies that expose the raw, real, messed-upedness of our humanity.  It’s a beautiful thing.  One of my favorite scenes is this one…

Through blood and tears, Donny Smith confesses, “I do have love to give.  I just don’t know where to put it.”

Before I go any further, allow me to disclose:  A small percentage of the population is made up of sociopaths:  individuals with no capacity for genuine human emotion.  Those people aside, the rest of us are a lot alike.  We all have fears and dreams and wishes and worries… and we all have love to give.  And, sometimes, it feels like there’s nowhere to put it.

Susan Piver talked about this phenomenon in her book, The Wisdom of a Broken Heart.  Without a place to attach our love, we go mad.  In the aftermath of a divorce, love can spill everywhere.  That might sound funny to those more familiar with typical divorces featuring mudslinging and namecalling.  That’s because nobody wants to admit that s/he is vulnerable enough to be drowning in a flood of love (not to mention love for the wretched ex!), so the trendy thing to do is pollute that love with anger to the point where it turns black and we call it “hate” (or similar).  Then, we spew venom and feel just a little better about everything.

Individuals with an abundance of self-control could find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum from those who are boiling with animosity.  In this case, un-allocated love might be zipped up, pushed down and locked away.  The result is an icy cool exterior, polished smooth, yet rigid… possibly a top performer in the office with no time for a social life.  Do you know the type?

Personally, I’ve been all over the heat map:  Many years ago, I raged furiously as my college-level relationship came to a close.  At the end of my empty marriage, I was a cold, hard, baby-hating workaholic.  And last year I found myself impotently adrift in a torrent of tears.  While the effect was different each time (a sure sign of personal evolution, yes?), the cause was the same:  I thought I had nowhere to put my love.

So how do we go about reassigning our unbounded love?  It’s easy!  And, it’s also incredibly difficult.  Here’s a three-step recipe that’s been successful for many…

  1.  Love Yourself First.  Begin by accepting yourself as you are:  crooked teeth, quirky sense of humor, inability to comprehend calculus, etc.  Accept it and realize that your shortcomings are what makes room for your strengths.  Praise your strengths, invest in You, embrace your Self and find your feet again.
  2. Give Of Yourself.  Surely you are surrounded by things, places and people worthy of receiving your love.  Identify those that are special to you and devote some extra time and attention there.  Listen to a friend in need.  Reconnect with a long-lost family member.  Walk the dog an extra block.  Help an elderly neighbor with yard work.  Volunteer.  Or, just stay home and clean the toilet.  That counts too, in some way.
  3. Have Compassion.  You knew this was coming, didn’t you?  If you’ve mastered #s 1 and 2, you should be overflowing with the love that you’re putting out and receiving in return.  Thus, compassion should be a piece of cake (or, at least a piece of… ummm… something else that isn’t too terrible to stomach).  Consider that the people who caused your pain were only trying to avoid being hurt themselves.  Recognize the common threads that bond us.  Make peace with the past and seed it with love to initiate balance and lessen the chances that it might someday poison your present.


Sounds like a perfect plan, right?  Now that we all know how to redirect our affections, let’s not forget to carry that same compassion for others we meet along the way.  Remember this lesson the next time a customer-service agent (or, you know.. maybe your ex) snips at you.  Before you call her a name, consider that perhaps she doesn’t know where to put her love.  Maybe you can lessen the tension by gently showing her a worthy location:  say something nice- give her permission to love herself, or be vulnerable and let her help (love) you.

Amazing things can happen when we admit that we’re human (and so is everyone else).

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