“Love is the giving and receiving of pleasure.” Dan Allender
“God not only loves you, but likes you.” Brennan Manning
Our marriage counselor once gave my wife and me an assignment I thought was really dumb. She asked us to pause each day over the next week to remember the things about each other that we fell in love with. And more than a simple bullet point check list, she actually wanted us to sit and recall memories of the other person, times those attributes were most present.
I smiled politely but inside I rolled my eyes. How was this supposed to help us? We had been in a tailspin, fighting this same fight with each other on and off for a couple months. We were beat up, bloodied, and needed some real concrete help. Yes, we needed the counseling version of CPR, not some positive thinking exercise.
Because I couldn’t bring myself to tell the counselor it was a dumb idea, I actually tried it. So I dusted off a couple of old memories. There were the times I saw Amanda walking on campus when we still had not met. There she stood donning her hiking shoes and corduroy pants betraying her adventurous spirit, her beautiful wavy blonde hair, her gorgeous smiling face. Mmmm, I like that girl.
I laughed remembering the time we were driving with some unpleasant company in the back seat. We both looked at the other and she made this contorted face at. I burst out laughing. I can still picture it right now. Hilarious! I love her sense of humor, how she never ceases to surprise me with it. Yes, that woman I really like a lot.
A strange thing followed. My heart warmed to her again. It didn’t stop us from fighting all together, but it knocked it on its knees alright. It took away the hardness of my heart. The pleasure of these memories massaged away the furrow in my brow held in her presence. I actually found myself smiling at her more. Yeah, I do love this woman.
All this led me to realize something: We can’t love someone we don’t like. In fact, for the human heart “love” and “like” mean the same thing. Think of it. You already know this. When you really like a certain food, you tell people, “Oh, I love sushi!” Or after a really enjoyable vacation, you may say, “We just had the best time. We fell in love with Hawaii! ” You already mix and match the two.
Its the same way for how we love each other. Love without like isn’t love. We won’t be nourished by love from someone who doesn’t like us. Seriously. Think about the times you’ve felt the most loved. Am I right to say they were moments when you felt the most liked and enjoyed? When I call my father, his voice perks up and he gives a little chuckle usually. And I know he loves me in part because of how good this feels when he greets me on the phone. When I stooped to one knee and I asked my wife to marry me, her overflowing joy said yes before the word came. I can still remember the eurphoric pleasure of holding her hand afterward. These are experiences of love.
Yes, love will require more than just liking someone. Commitment, long suffering, patience – it needs all of those too. At 3 AM when I am helping my son fall back asleep, I am not gushing with affection. Long suffering is certainly the call of love then. But its also the time when I often recall the way we laugh as we wrestle each other or the moments he buries his head in my chest. And that memory of these joys gets me through.
Love needs the memory of affection and joy to fall back on. Its foundation must be in the “…giving and receiving of pleasure…” in the words of Dan Allender. Love without pleasure is a stony thing. Its more like obligation or duty than it is like love. We really can’t go all that long without this in a love relationship.
I know this flies in the face of the idea that we can love someone and not like them. We can’t. We have to like something about them or we won’t be able to love them. That may be difficult to swallow, but its true. Even for that boss or ex husband or family member you cannot stomach being around. Some people are nasty, harmful, or downright destructive. How do we love them if we can’t imagine liking them?
You don’t have to like everything about a person to love them. Just something. And it may take getting right up close to them, talking to them and learning about them, to find the enjoyable parts. You may only like the tie your enemy wears in your presence. Or her taste in food. For some people the only thing you may be able to enjoy is that they are a fellow human. Yes, and for some who are so repulsive as people, you will have to imagine who they could be if they still walked the streets of Eden. But that little finger hold of like is enough to offer love.
By the way, this whole concept explains why you want to be liked so much.
We are all people pleasers at heart. We all want to be liked, to be pleasing to others, to be enjoyed. Oh, some of us have given up on that being possible. What we usually call “people pleasers” are those who believe they will only be liked if they perform. And there are those amongst us who have become curmudgeons – people so distasteful to be around it seems being liked is the last thing on their minds. They too have given up and even given up trying to perform to get it.
Your desire to be liked is a good thing about you. Your heart is not immature. Its not your unhealed inner junior higher. Its okay that you want attention or enjoyment. Who we choose to get affection from and what we’re willing to do to get it can get us in a lot of trouble. But the desire to be liked is never the problem. Its just the wiring of your heart.