The Five Life Tasks – 5 – Love

This is the final presentation in the series, Life Tasks.

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Today’s presentation is the final one in the series on Life Tasks. The first one, you may recall, was Spirituality. You might think it strange that professional counselors would think spirituality was an important life task for people, and yet there’s been a huge shift in thinking on that among people who are psychologically trained. They now understand that humans have a spiritual component. What do you know? That’s good. The second one was Self-Direction. Certainly we know that being able to direct ourselves is very important. Some people think it’s someone else’s responsibility to make their decisions for them, but we know that it’s ours. Work and Leisure is the third area that we talked about. You show me somebody that can’t find a way to be productive in society, and I will show you people that are in trouble. We talked last, on Pentecost, about Friendship. That was the fourth one.

Today’s presentation is the final one in the series on Life Tasks. The first one, you may recall, was Spirituality. You might think it strange that professional counselors would think spirituality was an important life task for people, and yet there’s been a huge shift in thinking on that among people who are psychologically trained. They now understand that humans have a spiritual component. What do you know? That’s good. The second one was Self-Direction. Certainly we know that being able to direct ourselves is very important. Some people think it’s someone else’s responsibility to make their decisions for them, but we know that it’s ours. Work and Leisure is the third area that we talked about. You show me somebody that can’t find a way to be productive in society, and I will show you people that are in trouble. We talked last, on Pentecost, about Friendship. That was the fourth one.

You know, as we mention these important areas of life, we all nod and think, “Well of course, that’s a part of everybody’s life.” We’ve gone to lengths in this series to show just how important each of them is, and how much success or failure in each of these areas affects our well-being, our physical and emotional health, and also our spiritual condition. So, we’re hoping that this series can play an ongoing part in our ministry and contribute to the body of work that we’re creating to help Christians live full and balanced spiritual lives. And we’re hoping that it will also be especially helpful to teens and young adults as they think about how they want their life to go. It’s too late for me to think too much about how I want my life to go, because three-quarters of it is already gone. Right? But when you’re twenty, you still have three-quarters of it left. So it’s time to do some long-range planning. So we’re hoping that that will help.

Our final presentation in this series is about Love. That’s the fifth and final life task. Now, how did I come up with those? Did I just decide those were important? No, these are all things based on research. These are things that are really important to people. Over many years of studying what makes people happy and what keeps them from being happy, these are things that keep coming up. So, when people come to my office and seek help with their problems, I know that I need to be really curious about the love relationships in their life, because it’s such an important part of everybody’s life.

I had a sixteen-year-old client a few months ago, who kept telling me that no one cared about him. He sat with a gun in his living room for three hours while a police officer talked it out of his hand finally. He was then referred to our clinic. He’d been intent on killing himself because he thought no one cared about him. I remember telling him at the intake – and I also remember my supervisor telling him that, too – that he was upset, and things always seem worse when we’re upset, and that his grandmother and his mother faithfully brought him to counseling, and they did that because they loved him and were worried about him. I can remember him responding by saying that they just considered him a problem, and wanted him to stop bothering them with his troubles, and that’s why they were bringing him to counseling.

Well, as the weeks passed, he and I talked a lot. I was also talking to our family therapist that was going into their home twice a week. The therapist told me that his mother married a man who said from the outset that he didn’t want anything to do with her kids. All the kids in the family, who were all within a few years of each other, begged her not to marry this man, because he made no bones about not liking any of them. But she married him anyway. Because his new stepfather didn’t want him around, his mother sent him to live with his grandparents, who didn’t want him either. They were old and tired. And this boy was a mess. He had a lot of problems. He was into all kinds of hurtful things. It was stressful to have him around – especially if you were his grandparents. But you know, parental love is constant and isn’t offended for long by children’s misbehavior.

Just think about the father of the prodigal son. There was a kid that had some problems. He caused a lot of problems for their family, didn’t he? And yet his father was always there, looking out on the road for him to come back – hoping and praying that he would.

One afternoon this boy came into my office, and I asked, as I always did, if he’d been thinking about death, or about hurting himself. And he said, “Yes, I have.” I said, “Well, how would you do that?” He said, “Well, I’d use my stepdad’s gun. This time I know where he hides it.” Okay, that’s believable, isn’t it, because he had a gun before. I said, “How long have you been thinking about it?” “For two weeks.” He’d missed a week, so I hadn’t seen him for two weeks. I said, “How often have you been thinking about it in this two week period?” He said, “All the time.” I said, “On a scale of one to ten – one being perfectly happy and ten being ready to kill yourself – where are you?” He said, “Thirty.” So I sent him to Caisson Hospital where they admitted him immediately. Two days after that, the family therapist called me and told me that his mother told her the family had planned to go out of town for a weekend getaway, and they were still going, even though their son was suicidal and had been admitted to a mental hospital. That’s what helped me to understand that he wasn’t really that far off the mark in his understanding about how his parents felt about him.

I’m sure his family thought of themselves as loving him, but when it got right down to it, what they thought and what they did, did not seem to match up to me. They weren’t acting like loving people. So, I think he actually was right – that they didn’t care about him. That perception in his mind – true or not – was devastating to him. Love is a very important part of everyone’s life. And for children, to be loved by their parents is absolutely crucial.

Let’s talk about what love is for a little bit before we go on. Before I do that, I want to say that this life task of loving others and being loved by others is considered by social scientists to be the most challenging of all five of these, because it takes courage and commitment to love and to be loved. They also consider it to be the most rewarding, because the evidence shows that people who love and are loved tend to live longer than other people. There are health benefits. People who have a lot of love in their lives are healthier, not only physically, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually as well. Did you know that? Did you know that research has demonstrated that people who love and who are loved live longer and are healthier. It really shouldn’t surprise us, but they have plenty of evidence to prove that.

Another thing that’s interesting about love is that poets, ministers, song writers, artists, philosophers have all been talking about the power of love for a long time, but only in the last three decades have social scientists been able to prove a lot of the benefits of love. There’s a guy named Pitirim Sorokin of Harvard, and he’s the forerunner of scientific study about love. He tells us that love is the single most powerful force for influencing and changing human behavior. Now, we shouldn’t be surprised by that, should we, as Christians, since God says that He’s going to get us all into His Kingdom without making us do a single thing. He says He’s going to do it by loving us, doesn’t He? Because He knows that’s what motivates people more than anything else.

I have to think a lot about, as a professional psychotherapist, how to get people to do things that are good for them. I have a single mom and a twelve-year-old daughter who are coming to see me right now. I’ve talked about them before to this group. In our first session, she was the one that wouldn’t look me in the eye, or talk to me, and just kind of covered herself up with pillows, and had her jacket zipped all the way up. She wouldn’t look or talk. So I talked to her, and I told her, “It feels uncomfortable to be here listening to your mother tell a stranger a lot of negative things about you, and you wish you could just go home and talk to your friends on your phone. While you are really angry with her, the fact that you’re here shows that there’s a part of you that loves your mother, and wants really badly for your relationship with her to get better. And you’re hoping that I can help you and your mom, but you’re not sure that’s going to happen.” I remember that when we got up to leave, she walked by me and I put my hand on her shoulder, and she looked up at me and smiled, and said, “Bye.” Things have been getting gradually better as I am making a huge effort to pay attention to her, to affirm her as a person, to listen to what she has to say, and put as much weight to that as to what her mother says, and in a completely appropriate way, to be playful and affectionate with her, so that she knows that I care about her. I believe that that effort is what is encouraging her to hang in there and to actually do the work. She knows that I care about her. Of course, in therapy we don’t call it love, but that’s what it is. That’s exactly what it is. She’s getting more and more involved in what’s going on in our sessions. She used to just sit and listen. And now she’s started talking more. Instead of calling her mother a retard, she’s actually approaching her in a respectful manner. I told my boss that she was calling her mother a retard, and he said, “Well, that probably ought to tell us something about what she thinks about her mother’s parenting skills.” Really, the child isn’t the problem as much as the mother. The child is only reacting the way anybody would react to that kind of treatment. She’s normal. The mother is the one with the problem. Although the child will have a problem if she grows up being treated that way.

So why is love such a powerful motivator for people? The Bible tells us why in the first chapters of Genesis. The point I want to make from the first one is from the first few chapters of Genesis. God and human beings were together, and they liked that. God like it, and they liked it. But when they broke the house rules, they were sent away, weren’t they? They were put out of the Garden. The response to that punishment was that it was more than they could bear. That’s what one of them said, right? “My punishment is more than I can bear.” To be separated from God is worse than anything else. Separation hurts. People are social. They like to be together. And they like to be in unity. Being together is good when everyone is in harmony. We’re created that way because we are God’s children. God is a social God, and we are His social children. So being together – being fused with other people – emotionally and spiritually feels good to us. Being at odds with other people, and separated from other people, and cast out of other people’s presence, that feels bad.

Some people can’t relate to that because they have been hurt so much, and have hurt others so much, that they have built up thick skin or high walls to protect themselves. But that kind of defense against the hurts of life only increases separation, doesn’t it? That just makes us feel worse in the long run. So it’s a strategy for living that’s doomed to failure.

Erich Fromm, a famous therapist who wrote a book titled The Art of Loving, tells us that the desire to avoid separation and become one with others…. We have a holy day about that, don’t we? About becoming one? At one? That’s supposed to be a good thing, right? That’s when we’re all together in a loving relationship, right? And when we’re all separated and mad at each other, and won’t speak to one another, gone, and all of that, that’s bad, right? That’s really bad, because in all the research they’ve done – I only quote the research to show that all the things that are in the Bible really are true, and that we now can prove a lot of these things – that desire to avoid separation and to be together at one with other people socially and emotionally, is the strongest urge that human beings have. To me, that all points to our relationship with God and with each other in the Kingdom of God. Because the longings that we have – the strongest desires that human beings have – are going to be fulfilled in a way that’s more powerful than anything that we’re ever going to experience now. It’s going to be lots of fun. I can hardly wait.

I know that there are people that aren’t wired like I am. I am an extrovert. That means I am energized and refueled by contact with people. But there are other people who are introverts, and they are depleted, or tired out or worn out, by prolonged contact with other people. But that doesn’t mean that introverts don’t have friends, and don’t like to have friends, and don’t need contact with other people. It just means that it’s tiring for them. So I don’t want anybody to get a wrong idea. I’ve had some of my introvert friends tell me they feel kind of like they’re not doing the right thing by being an introvert when I talk about all this togetherness, because they have a problem with it. It’s not what I’m talking about. All introverts that I know – that are my friends – have friends. Right? When we have friends, that creates the pleasure chemical in our brain called dopamine. Introverts are born with more dopamine receptors sites in their brain. So a little friendship goes a long way! Too much is too much. But too much for them isn’t too much for me, because I’m different than they are. So, everybody was created to seek togetherness – or oneness with other people.

What are some of the components of love? Relationships that are loving are intimate – and I’m going to talk more about what that word means later, so I’m not going to define it now. They tend to be trusting, self-disclosing – open with each other. People who love each other care about one another and about what happens to each other. There’s companionship. There’s affection. There’s giving of self to the other. There’s a desire to cooperate. There’s compassion. There’s long-term commitment. Relationships that include love usually have a bonding, or an attachment, or a connectedness feature to them – where people feel connected. In marriage, sex would be a part of that relationship, too. But mostly, it has to do with these other things. Love relationships can include friends, as well as husbands and wives, or children. We talked about levels of friendship when we discussed that life task. So besides family and extended family, intimate friends are often part of a love relationship.

I think about a lot of the children that I’ve known over the years. Many of them are adults now, and I find that I still love them just like I did when they were kids. If I’ve been away from them for a long time, and then I see one of them after fifteen years, I kind of have to…oh, he’s thirty now, not fifteen! He’s adult! I’m kind of behind with them. I think that long-time thing is about commitment and caring. I know one of the girls that I used to know about fifteen years ago sent me an email and asked me to look at her Website. On the Website was a picture of her and her husband, holding their firstborn child – a boy. I felt so pleased that she thought to send me that note, and I think there’s sort of a “look what I’ve become and look what I’ve done” quality to that, because we were important to each other when she was a teenager. I think that the fact that she sent that to me tells me that she still remembers our relationship from when she was a teenager, and that she still loves me and she knows that I still love her.

There are five kinds of love according to the research. It’s sounds so funny to say that, you know – “according to the research.” But we are heavy on Bible, and some of us are kind of light on research. So I wanted to add that in.

The first type of human love that they talk about is parental love. Erich Fromm, who I mentioned earlier, divides this into Mother Love and Father Love. He capitalizes those terms so that you’ll know that they are terms that he has given to differentiate two different kinds of love. He says that Mother Love is characterized in that it is unconditional and affirming, and Father Love is the kind of love that holds out expectations and imposes boundaries. Both of those are components of love. God is affirming of us. The Bible – the Old Testament especially – talks about God’s loving kindness that He extends to us. But we would never say that He does not hold out any expectations and has no boundaries for us, would we? Boundaries are a way that He loves us. One of the biggest, most loving things He’s ever done for us is to give us the Ten Commandments.

Now, I’ve met fathers who are good at Mother Love and mothers who are good at Father Love, so I don’t think that Erich Fromm really meant that only mothers could be affirming and unconditionally loving, or only fathers could hold out expectations and impose boundaries. But most of the time it is the men who have trouble accepting their children’s faults, and women who have trouble holding the line on the behavior. I was watching one of these news programs one time, and they had taken a video camera into a hall of a single mom, and taped for a week her interactions with her kids. They were just out of control – crazy! I mean, it was weird! They had a woman psychologist then, talking with her about how to get control of her children. I remember her saying, “Now when you tell them to do something, only say it once, and say it with a deep voice like a man would.” They didn’t have any segments where they worked a man over, but they could have. I know in our clinic, when single moms come in with their kids, the issue is usually a boundary problem, because the mother has not been able to hold the boundaries on her child. But again, I don’t think that Erich Fromm meant that only fathers have expectations and only mothers are unconditionally affirming. But I think his inclination to label those two categories that way is more often, than not, correct.

Now, there’s a tension for all parents between unconditionally affirming our children and holding them to the boundaries. I was talking with an eighteen-year-old boy recently, and he’s upset because he works from five in the afternoon till ten every night in a restaurant, and his parents – even though he’s graduated from high school – require that he be home by eleven on a week night, and weekends by twelve. He said, “I can go to war, and I can drive, but I can’t stay out with my friends.” Now, this boy, by the way, broke off a relationship with a girl, because she was pressuring him for sex. He has a job. He got good grades in high school. He’s never done any drugs. He’s never been drunk. He’s never been in trouble at school or with the law. He’s active at church. He did recently get a tattoo, but that was only after he asked his parents opinion and approval. Many parents would have a lot more trust for a kid like that. And I know a lot parents who would love it if their children were as responsible as he is. So he comes home every night from work at eleven o’clock – or ten-thirty – and stays up until 4 am playing video games and watching the same movies over and over, because he can’t be out with his friends. I suggested he negotiate a more workable situation with his parents, and he said he had given up talking to them because he thinks they can’t change the way they think. He’s just counting the days until he gets his truck paid off, so he can afford to move out. Of course, all of us here, who are adults, know that his parents are worried about him getting into trouble, and they want to keep him safe. That’s how they’re thinking. But that really cramps his style. He feels like he’s being restricted unduly. But he doesn’t want to upset them, because he loves them, and he feels a sense of responsibility to his younger brother and is not going to cause problems in the family. To him, it feels like he loves them more than they love him. What he doesn’t know is that his mother feels the tension between affirming him as a person and helping him grow, and holding him to the rules to keep

him safe. She feels that. He doesn’t understand that, but I’ve talked to her enough to know that she does feel that tension. And there is always that tension in relationships with children. I keep trying to implant the terms in both their minds – fair and reasonable – when it comes to rules and boundaries, and also the concept of negotiation.

We’ll talk more about parental love soon, so I’m not going to discuss that more. Let’s just move on to the next form of human love, which is self love. Some people think that self love is selfishness. In the community where I work we call that narcisism. And that’s not the same thing as self love. Biologically we need to love ourselves so that we take care of ourselves and maintain ourselves. For Christians, this kind of love can be troublesome when taking care of ourself gets in the way of taking care of others, because there’s that tension there in relationships. Who comes first? Others or self. And it can be a complex question, especially in marriage, where two people are in close relationship, and each one has different and distinct needs.

An example to show what I mean by the need for self love: I have a client who tells me that four years ago she stopped painting her nails, fixing her hair, dressing up, cleaning the house. She just let everything go, including herself. If her elementary school-age son is away, which he is sometimes – at grandparents – she stays in bed all day, whether she needs to go to work or not. He’s the only reason she does anything anymore. All of us, I suppose, could recognize that as depression. But the reason why she’s depressed becomes important. She says that it feels to her like she’s losing the battle to believe in herself. That actually started in her early childhood, but so often the seeds that are sown in childhood don’t germinate and grow to full strength until we’re older. And that’s what’s happened with her. This woman never learned that she was worth taking care of, because she was told that all her life as a child. Now that notion prevents her from serving her son as well as she could, because she doesn’t take care of herself. If she were a Christian, it would impede her ability to serve God, too. She wouldn’t be able to come to church. There would be a lot of things she couldn’t do.

So, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. There’s another scripture you can look up. And we’re to take care of it. So we have to love ourselves enough to do that. I’m working with this lady to make sense of what happened to her in her childhood so that she can move beyond that. And start feeling like she’s worth taking care of.

The third kind of love is sibling and friendship love. These are kind of lumped together. This kind of love is more important as children start going to school, and even more important when they’re teenagers, because that’s practice for adult life, isn’t it? We have to learn how to do these things when we’re adults, and we need to practice that when we’re younger. So we have to learn how to be friends, how to share, how to be loyal, how to recognize and respect other people’s boundaries, how to move away from destructive people. All those things are very important for us to learn. We’re wired to start learning that when we’re young. It really becomes important when we start becoming teenagers.

This little twelve-year-old girl…the worst thing her mother can do to her is take her cell phone away from her, because that’s how she connects with her friends after school. And  the second worst thing is to not let her go out in the evenings in the neighborhood and be with the neighbor kids, because she’s biologically wired to get to know other people at that age. We all went through that, didn’t we? We remember what it was like and how important it was – for some more than others. Then we go past that, don’t we? I know, for me, it was like a switch flipped in my brain. At seventeen it was really important to be with and do the same things other kids were doing, and a year later, I really didn’t care whether I did what they did or not. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to do what a lot of them were doing. Autonomy became more important at that point. After I learned how to fit in, then it became important to differentiate myself from them. And we see that pattern early on in life, don’t we? When children are infants, they’re job is to attach to parents. Then at two, they start telling us, “No,” and “I can do it myself,” because they’re differentiating from them. That happens again in teenage and early adolescence.

The fourth area to think about when we think about human love is romantic and sexual love. People tend to talk about this kind of love in poetic or emotional terms – you hear all the country songs about it – other songs, too. Social scientists talk about it in more specific terms. It’s not as much fun to talk about it that way as to listen to Country & Western, but it’s still helpful. Because we don’t often stop and think about what makes for good romance and good marriage.

Here are some things they’ve discovered people always bring up when they are interviewed about this subject. Promoting the welfare of the loved one. When we do that we know we love them. And when people do that to us, we know they love us. Promoting the welfare of the loved one – not trying to control them and keep them back, but helping them to grow. We know we have love when we’re happy to be with that person and when they’re happy to be with us. We know that we love somebody when we have high regard and respect for them. We know that we love somebody and that they love us when we can count on each other in times of need. There are people that don’t let me down, right? Do you have people like that? “Go to” people? They can be counted on because they love you. And we, hopefully, are that way to other people as well. Understanding and having knowledge of the other person in the relationship. You can’t meet somebody’s needs if you don’t know what they need. So there has to be communication to do that. Sharing time and possessions with the other person – when things are common among people – that’s because they love each other. Emotional support between people is characteristic of a loving relationship. Intimate communication with the other person is an important part of a loving relationship. And then valuing the other person in one’s life.

When we went to visit our children and grandchildren…when we got there the grandchildren were taking a nap up in the bedroom. When Peyton, the three-year-old girl, came down, she saw Elaine, and her eyes just eyes just lit up, and she broke into a big smile, and she said, “Grammy Laine!” And she ran to her and threw herself into her arms. She values Grammy Laine’s presence in her life. Right? That’s what that means.

So these are helpful to think about – probably more helpful than Country & Western music – to think about when we ask and answer the questions, “Do you love me?” and

“Do I love you?” That’s what loving people act like toward each other. Good material for marriage enrichment. And good for the teenagers to ask, as well.
The final area of love is what they call agapic love. Agape is a Greek word. We call it Godly love. It’s used for Godly love in the Bible. Social scientists call it agapic love – or mature love. It just means self-giving love – non-demanding love, devoted love. Jesus gave His life for all of us so that we could be with Him. He got something out of it, but it was a huge sacrfice for Him. Self-giving, devoted love. That’s what this final, most mature kind of love is. It’s the kind of love that Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians – you know, the love chapter.

This kind of love is not unique to those that have the Holy Spirit, even though we call it Godly love. Biblical writers were using a word for this kind of love that Greek philosophers wrote about quite frequently. But it’s that the Holy Spirit motivates us to love other in this mature, self-giving, non-demanding, devoted kind of love – the same kind of love God has for us – mature. It’s more an attitude, or a mindset, than it is a feeling. It’s a commitment to treat other people that way.

People who have agape have it toward everyone. That’s something that we all ought to really think about, isn’t it? Because most of us have the people we like and the people we don’t. But mature love extends itself to everybody. We know that we’re supposed to be that way, don’t we, because we’re supposed to love even our enemies, aren’t we? Love our neighbor as ourselves. Who is our neighbor? Well, it’s everybody, isn’t it? Including our enemies.

Well, since we have so much to talk about on this topic, I’m going to refer you to the series on True Spirituality, and more specifically to the presentations in that series that deal with love of self, love of God, and love of others, for more detailed treatments of each of those. And I’m going to move on to talk about intimacy and affection as a part of love.

In talking about affection, I was thinking about a shift that I’ve had to make in my thinking in the last seven years. I used to hear…. You know, I’d never been a teacher, or had worked in a school until seven years ago. I’d just seen teachers on TV, and heard teachers talk. I thought that teachers were never supposed to touch their students, and therapists were never supposed to touch their clients. That talk, I learned later when I started working at school, was just specific to the risk management people. It wasn’t specific to the people that actually spent time with the kids. And in reality, when I went to school, I saw teachers shaking hands with kids, I saw them giving them high-fives, I saw them patting them on the backs, and I saw them hugging them sometimes. And all of these kinds of touching, as I observed them, were just completely natural and appropriate, and not either forced or restrained in any way. It was just what happens naturally when adults interact with children. When I went to school to learn about psychotherapy, I learned that clients, whose therapists touched them appropriately, considered that therapist to be more effective than clients whose therapists did not.

Affection is a part of human love. It’s the way we connect to each other. I learned a long time ago that if I wanted to connect to kids, touching them is an important part of that. Of course, the way we touch other people has to send a message of safety and respect, or else it destroys the relationship instead of helping it. So it has to be socially appropriate. And it has to be understood by the one being touched that it’s appropriate, and helpful rather than hurtful.

I was thinking one of the reasons the little girl I told you about earlier is encouraged to participate in her own therapy has to do with the fact that I pat her on the back, or let her give me a little hug once in awhile. Since this kind of touch is not sexual in nature, it also occurs between people of the same sex. Thinking back over the years about the boys that I’ve worked with, they were always – maybe even more – demanding and demonstrative to hug me as the girls. And of course, then there was always the rough-housing and horseplay that boys do. I know that I always seemed to catch more than my share of that on the basketball court from the teenage boys that I knew well. Of course, I also gave as good as I got.

My friend, Bob, who is my age, and I, we always hug each other when we see each other. I was talking to him about a training I went to recently, where the trainer said that for a long time psychotherapy became rather rigid and unloving – they wouldn’t use that word. She thought that we needed to allow love back into the process. His response was that it never really left. It was just that people wouldn’t talk about it. He said that he went to a training, and there were two analytical therapists talking about a case where they both worked with the same boy, who had reactive attachment disorder, which is one of the worst things that can happen to a human being. Both of them, he said, broke down and cried as they talked about their work with this child. He was just letting me know that the reason it was important was that they were analytical therapists is that those people are generally very highly trained, and very set in the methods that they use. And yet they both loved this child, and it was very obvious that they did. My response to that was my old song that I believe that any healing that takes place, takes place in the relationship between the one who needs help and the one who’s giving it. And I think that relationship is characterized by many of the points that we’ve talked about today. And so is love, even if some of the professionals don’t use that word to describe what’s going on inside them. If they’re helping people, they are loving them.

Let’s talk a little bit about intimacy before we stop. Quite often people hear this word and they think it has a sexual connotation. And that is one way to use it. But the word means a lot more than that. People can only be intimate when each is committed to the growth and the health of the other person. You know that boy I told you about earlier? His parents are constricting him. He’s ready for more freedom, and they don’t want to let him have it. The result is that he’s shut down with them. He doesn’t talk to them anymore. And he thinks they don’t understand him, so why try talking, you see.

If we want to have good relationships with our mates, our kids, our friends, our work associates, we need to know what they need. We need to have responsibility toward them.

We need to have respect for them and their needs. And we need to care for – take care of – them and for other people. We need to have respect for them as human beings.

I hear parents all the time talking about their kids with their kids present as though they’re not there! We need to think about how to take care of each other, how to respect one another – what our responsibilities are to each other. Cain said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And the answer to that question was, “Yes, you are.” Charles Barkley said that he didn’t want to be anybody’s role model, but later he learned that he was anyway. I’ll have to give it to him. As he’s matured, he has begun to try to do a better job of that. And all of us should. If we don’t know what people need, we can’t love them as well.

So those parents are damaging their relationship with their eighteen-year-old son, but they’re not doing it deliberately. They just don’t know what he needs. They’re out of touch with his growth. I’ll bet you if I sat down with them, and I read off that list that I just read you – about all the things that he is – they’d be amazed. They just haven’t added it all up. But part of loving other people is taking time to hear them and understand them – not to try to force them into a mold or a direction that we think they need to go. They need to make those decisions for themselves. When people are treated that way, then they can open up and be disclosing. And that’s what causes intimacy. It’s the ability to talk to each other without being afraid that we’re going to be changed, or forced some direction or another.

Well, much more could be said about love, and I’m intent on saying what I know of it in other presentations, but I see by the clock that for now, that’s going to have to do. With the completion of this fifth presentation, we are finishing our series on Life Tasks. If you’ve missed any of them, you can download them from our Website or contact us, and we’ll be happy to send you the others.