Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances…Victor Frankl in the book: Man’s Search for Meaning
My earliest childhood memory is that of my grandfather patting me on my back while he puts me to sleep. Through such a seemingly simple act I felt loved and cared for. Even now, whenever I recall that memory I am filled with feelings of love and warmth, and an automatic smile erupts unto my face. My grandparents are deceased now, but I lived the first seven years of my life with them and I feel like those were the best years of my life.
The need for love and acceptance is present in all of us. It is just how we were created. After all, God is love, and we were created in His image, with the capacity to give and receive love. Even psychologists recognize this need. It is evident in the work of psychiatrist John Bowlby and developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth who developed the attachment theory. It is also evident in Abraham Maslow’s theory on hierarchy of needs, where love and belonging needs are at the third level. The first two being physiological and safety needs, the last two being esteem and self-actualization.
Though my earliest childhood memory is of feeling loved, most of the remainder of my childhood was marked by feelings of being unloved and unwanted. Even in adulthood I have questioned God’s love for me. In theory you know that your parents are supposed to love you but in actuality you don’t feel or experience that love; it is not demonstrated. In theory you know that God is love and He is supposed to love you but you wonder, does He really? How can I be sure He loves me? Where is the evidence? How do I feel and experience that love? Have you ever grappled with these questions? Have you ever wrestled with feelings of insecurity and feeling unloved and unwanted?
What is Love?
Love! A word so often misused. We love our car, that new home or the new outfit we just bought. We love ice cream, cake, a song a movie and our pets. We are always in pursuit of love. We write songs about it, books and poetry about it, we make movies about it. It is a recurring theme in our lives.
So what exactly is love? 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. So if we really want to understand love I suggest we closely examine God’s nature and character. The only place to go for that is the Bible. In today’s society we are led to believe that love is simply a strong emotion that one feels towards another, and disappears at the first sign of trouble or betrayal. We are taught to equate sex with love. If you have bought into that notion allow me to disabuse you of such a view. According to the bible, this is not so. Rather, love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4-7, ESV).
I like the way one writer explains love. He says, “love is not simply avoiding injurious activities – it is about choosing to purposefully act in uplifting and selfless ways. Nor is it simply about doing what feels good. Rather love involves doing what is good, regardless of how one feels. Doing what is in the best interest of others and giving of oneself for another, love is selfless.” I want to add to this by saying that love is self-sacrificing. Love will make sacrifices for others. We know this because of God’s example, “this is how God showed His love to us; He sent his only Son into the world to give us life through Him”, (1 John 4:9 ESV).
If like me you have ever questioned God’s love for you, I ask you to meditate on 1 John 4:9, think about what is really means. Would you give up your life for another? That is how much God loves us. I have also discovered two things; the first is that I have to choose to believe with all my heart that God loves me, regardless of how I feel. When I believe, then I begin operating from a place of being loved. I feel confident, I feel loved and it affects my view of myself and my life. I begin to act different and my head is no longer bowed down. The second thing I have discovered is that the closer I get in relationship with God the more reassured I am of His love. I am better positioned to see and appreciate the many ways in which He blesses me, thereby demonstrating His love for me.
I have had to learn to love myself. Yes, it is natural to desire the love and approval of significant people in our lives, but I have come to believe that God’s love and love for myself is what is most important. So what if they don’t love you? Yes, it hurts, but you know what, God loves you and you can learn to love you too. Eliminate negative self-talk and choose to focus on the best qualities about yourself, and work on the areas in which you are weak. Also, purpose in your heart to love others. Not everyone will reciprocate that love but I bet you there are some who will.
You have a Choice
For a child or young person growing up feeling unwanted and unloved, the effects can be devastating. However, one’s beginning do not have to determine their ending, or the rest of their journey of that matter. So maybe like me, you have felt unloved during your childhood, but the effects do not have to define you. You can eliminate those negative effects, be a better you and still experience love in this lifetime. You have a choice; your beginning does not have to determine your destiny. Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, in his book titled Man’s Search for Meaning wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I pray for you today that you use your power to choose your attitude to circumstances. I also pray for you, love, peace and healing!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. To read more about my childhood story and what led me to feeling unloved click on this link: Short Stories.