I believe there is a deep human need to be loved and accepted exactly the way we are. We all need someone in our lives to tell us that we are worthy, we are enough, and we are loved. I believe this is the kind of love that Fred Rogers was referring to when he ended his program with “I like you just the way you are.” He was saying you don’t need to do anything special to be worthy of love, you are loved just as you are at this moment.
This is the kind of love many of us get from our parents (and rightfully so). And – if we are lucky – we might just find someone who loves us this way to get married to and make a family with. I am fortunate enough to say that I am one of the lucky ones who is loved this way by my wife. I often say that it was my wife who taught me what love really was. By this, I mean a romantic love that is deeper than romantic love so often can be.
Before I met and fell in love with my wife I had girlfriends who might at some point in our relationship reach a point where they said they loved me, but that love always seemed to come with conditions. They might say things like, “I love you, because of the way you look at me.” or “I love you, because you treat me so well.” Their love also often felt like they loved me a certain amount, but they would love me even more if I could simply manage to change this one thing about me or that one thing.
My wife was the first woman who ever loved me just the way I was. And what was even more wonderful about her love was that the more she got to know the real me the more she loved me. She even loved me for things that I saw as weaknesses about myself, such as my sensitivity. She was able to look at those parts of me that I didn’t so much love and say, “You’re being too hard on yourself.” We all need that kind of love in our lives, don’t we?
I believe the kind of love and acceptance I have received from my wife has probably helped me grow into a better person than I might have otherwise been. That’s what acceptance can do. It helps us see the best in ourselves and think the best of ourselves and want grow to be even better – by strengthening our finer qualities. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but she knows this about me and loves me anyway. And that’s the point.
If my kids ever one day ask me what they should look for in a partner I will say this: “Look for someone who loves you for who you are and supports you in who you want to become.” To me, that seems like real love. True love. Love that can last a lifetime.
So, this Valentine’s Day I am grateful for my Valentine. Like her love for me, I love her just the way she is. And this Valentine’s Day and every day I wish for that kind of love for you – whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey. I wish you love that accepts you the way you are and wants you to grow in all of the ways you wish to grow. Happy Valentines Day.
Founder, Century of Compassion