Brazilian Author of the Alchemist Paul Coelho recently shared a blog post about a list of things he’s learnt which have been attributed to him even though he did not write them called I have learned. The post lists 24 life lessons which gave me pause after I read them. I have since decided to reflect on each one of them for the next six months in my blog and see if these “universal truths” resonate with me or if I have any lessons of my own I could share from them. The first one is :
You cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved. The rest is up to them;
This one is a Big One. I have been wrestling with “love” for quite some time now and recently I have found myself voluntarily hanging-up my boxing gloves. I’m done.
Fighting for love is a contradiction in terms. While I agree that you cannot make someone love you, the second part of the quote presents a conundrum because it implies that there is something one can still do to become someone who can be loved, one day. Hence we keep “fighting” for love.
What does someone who can be loved look like, feel like, sound like?
Normal human beings understand that there’s very little you can do to make someone love you or to not love you. And normal human beings would not voluntarily expose themselves to people they know do not love them.
The confusion often comes when people are deliberately deceitful about their intensions. When they are dishonest and pretend to love instead of being explicit about the fact that they love only what they can get from/through you. In other words, they love what you have not who you are.
So being someone who can be loved is the quick-sand which swallows so many of us because how many people do you need to become before you can be loved by someone or anybody?
How do you become someone who can be loved: what is the criteria for lovability? I grew up thinking that love is not something one can earn. This means that while you can work on yourself by improving or fixing some toxic and destructive habits, behaviours and thought patterns – doing this alone will never gain you the love you want, expect or even deserve.
The fact that we don’t all have the same definition of Love makes this whole loving enterprise even more complex and challenging. So where do we begin?
I think what I have learnt in all these years of wrestling with all kinds of love – between friends, parents, siblings and lovers is this:
The more I think about it the more I am leaning towards acceptance as the truest definition of what love is or can be. Because this is what I mean when I say it, when I’ve said to people I love you, this is what I meant. In my heart it has always meant this; that I accept you for what you have been, for who you are and who you will become. I accept you – all of you – the bits I like a lot and the bits I don’t like so much.
The moment I refuse to accept something about you, often marks the “end” of “love”.
It is very rare to be in a situation where you love someone you cannot accept or accept someone you do not love. If you think of it in this way, if we think of love as acceptance, we can then have a rational outlook towards loving, actually. We can be clear about what we can and cannot accept.
You can decide if you want to become a person who is “acceptable” to someone or someone who accepts themselves, no matter what.
From this vantage point life becomes relatively simple.
In conclusion my lesson from this truism is this; You cannot make someone love you, Accept yourself, the rest does not matter.