Know Yourself

When people think about love, they usually start thinking about romance or loving another person or thing. What is often missed is that an important aspect of loving well is knowing oneself. While it's true that love is often a selfless act, we're able to love better if we know ourselves well. For instance, if you know how others can support you and how you can support them, it will be much easier to love one another.

Knowing yourself is, of course, a process. You change and evolve as you grow, so knowing yourself is almost a constant pursuit. This is especially important when it comes to romantic relationships. If we don't know ourselves and are confident in our character, likes and dislikes, morals, etc. then it can be easy to allow the other person to change us into someone we are not. I remember I dated a guy in high school who wanted me to be someone I was not. At the time I didn't want to admit it and the relationship went on for far longer than it should have. I was stubborn and didn't want to "fail" by ending the relationship. If I had known myself better, I would have seen that my desire to avoid "failure" wasn't a valid reason to continue a relationship. Especially since I somewhat allowed that guy to morph me into someone I was not. Not a healthy relationship, clearly. In some ways when you're in a relationship, you will certainly acquire some new likes or dislikes because of the new influence in your life, which is not always a bad thing. I was in a relationship with a guy who really loved classic rock & roll (The Who, Van Halen, The Doors, etc). I also liked classic rock a lot, but my love for it was definitely increased by being around someone who really loved it. And last December my husband really wanted to start rock climbing, which I had never really done before (except at the state fair). I probably would've never tried rock climbing if it wasn't for him, but now I really enjoy it! So this isn't to say that you can't enjoy new things introduced to you by someone you enjoy being with.

Where it gets dicey is when that person wants to change who you are. If you're a quiet introvert, he tries to make you into a bubbly, outgoing person. If you're very passionate and strong willed, he tries to tame you. If you're committed to a certain moral standard or don't want to do certain things sexually, he tries to push you past what you're comfortable with. This is where knowing yourself is super important. Someone who wants to change who you are fundamentally doesn't actually want to be with you, they want to be with someone else. One of the hardest decisions to make sometimes is to stand up for who you are or who you want to be, in opposition to the person you may love!

For the duration of this last section on love, we'll be working with M. Scott Peck's definition of love from his book The Road Less Traveled. In it, he defines love as, " The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." So far, this is my favorite definition of true love, and I love that he includes nurturing one's own spiritual growth in there. I've heard a lot of definitions of love which are primarily self-sacrificial, and while I think there's probably an aspect of that in true love, self sacrifice is harmful more often than not. Sometimes making sacrifices seems less painful than making a hard decision, like in the case of the guy I dated in high school. It was less painful for me to sacrifice myself than it was to end the relationship, so I continued on, self-sacrificing until I finally broke down and ended the relationship.

Take some time to think about who you are. Evaluate your character, your values, your morals. Knowing these things about yourself will make it easier for you to defend them when someone comes and wants to change them.