At some point in time by some mechanism of socialization mashed together with human tendency, we hold, for however briefly or for a life time, an assumption that love is whatever we experience in our families of origin
Because, obviously, if you are certain to receive it anywhere, the family is the most reasonable place to expect it.
Let’s forget for a moment the many definitions there are of family and love.
Put your imagination cap on and suspend all your queries for this moment as we assume, together, that for this reading, the word family and the word love are the terms that designate what the following descriptions embody.
Family: Picture yourself as a kid. A little kid. It is some holiday that in whatever culture you hail from, is one that includes a day you are surrounded by people you see every day but now, also, people you don’t see all the time, but, you know they are special to you somehow by the way they pinch your cheeks and hug the people who you are with every day.
They have names that are the same. 12 women you call ‘auntie’. You have a bunch of other kids that are referred to as cousins. It turns out that all these people have brothers and sisters and children that somehow are a part of who you are.
Pretty cool, right? Especially when cousins can sleep over and ‘auntie’ with the mole on her nose tells you that you are just as handsome as her brother, your dad, perhaps, but maybe your great uncle. Aunties bounce around the family tree.
This is your family. The people who have known you since you joined them. The people that know all about who your mother is and why no one lets Uncle John drink beer when he visits.
When the word love first gets bandied about, it will probably be from someone you are very close to saying “I love you” to you and other people and they echo back “I love you, too” and as far as your concerned, what they mean when they are loving you is exactly what you get.
Maybe it is the comfort someone gives you when you are very sick and hurt. Maybe it’s the joy you feel when they let you keep the mangy kitten you discovered in the drain spout. Maybe it’s the shame you feel after being spanked because you were bad. Maybe it’s the way you feel safe when they carry you to bed.
But what about those other people called family that are cousins, aunts, uncles, great grandparents, step sister’s husband, on ad infinitum?
As a little kid, whatever love you recognize between one of these people and the people you are close to kind of becomes part of you, too. Mom’s sister loves mom so I guess she has to also love me too.
And, of course, ask anybody if so and so loves you when you are little will claim that without question such and such loves you. You are family, of course.
Do you get the picture we drew?
Now, with this concept of love and family in mind, I would opine that there is absolutely nothing inherently certain as to the people you are related to holding any type or form of love for you, or for that matter, consider you any differently than if you were a stranger they meet for the first time whenever you greet one another.
Relatives are really just that: related to you. Some more closely than others.
We may or we may not be loved by any of the people you are related. Love is not the mere saying so. It never has to be said to be present.
The love we expect from people who mean the most to us is how we know family.
This is the love that would sacrifice your very life to save the one you love. Family are those who would lay down their lives to protect one another. Family are those who will never forsake your place among them, even if you have done things that the society you live in has rejected you for doing.
Family is about sacrifice. It is where mercy is given. It is who washed clean the slate of transgression every day with patience and trust. Family knows that it is only as strong as those within it so it is who builds us up when we feel defeated. It is who reminds us of our intrinsic worth. It is who does no harm that isn’t shared by them.
People I recognize, now, as family are those I consider my duty to keep whole.
The other side of this coin, though, is that those we love as family may not love you the same in return.
My belief is that this is more a function of a person”s capacity to give of themselves in sacrificial ways. Many people are stunted by fears that are fed by a belief in scarcity or the development of believing one is entitled to certain things, or somehow more deserving.
Those are the most poisonous of human belief.
So, I guess what I walk away knowing from this is that how I love others is completely independent from how we know one another.
In fact, I might not know a person at all but for my own reasons and definition of love, I would sacrifice what is my own for their well being.
This is how it goes.
So, I am no longer surprised when I receive a measure of love from someone I have never heard of before.
And I am no longer shaken when I receive only silence from someone I have known my entire life and call brother’.
Relatives are not always family.
Acquaintances are not always friends.
Strangers can show the same love to us as family.
It is all about what we believe and what greater good we submit ourselves to, other than ourself.