Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Primary love needs

I’m fascinated whenever I find works that confirm or expand on ideas I’ve found in Christian Science. One of my favorites is Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. The core premise of the book is basically “follow the Golden Rule in your relationships -- do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but what he’s done is break that down to reveal how to “do unto others” when they’re different from you.

After all, “do unto others” isn’t just about doing what *we* would want to have done to us. Not everyone wants the same things, and to only do what we would want isn’t all that loving. I’ve gotten the best results when I’ve taken the time to discover what the other person values and wants, and tried to do that. Because that’s indeed what I would want myself.

The page in Gray’s book I refer to most often is the one that enumerates The Twelve Kinds of Love. Gray lists them side by side:

Women / Men

  1. Caring / Trust
  2. Understanding / Acceptance
  3. Respect / Appreciation
  4. Devotion / Admiration
  5. Validation / Approval
  6. Reassurance / Encouragement

Mary Baker Eddy talks in depth about the importance of showing love to each other in her chapter in Science and Health about Marriage. “Men/Mars, Women/Venus” helped me see how to show that love more effectively, both to women and to men.

This was especially helpful in my parenting. Take the first two, caring and trust. In the simple example of encouraging my children to learn how to tie their shoes, it worked best if I used entirely different approaches for my girl and for my boy. My daughter felt best when I offered to help her do it. I’d start it off, and she’d finish it. It meant a lot to her that I was there for her while she learned.

My son, who was younger, resisted this tactic when it was his turn. He never wanted my help, but wanted to do it himself. Fortunately at about this time I read Gray’s book, and discovered what my son really wanted was my trust -- my confidence that he could do it. So when he got frustrated with his Velcro or laces, I’d say, “Don’t worry! Try again! I know you can do it!” And this little vote of confidence would give him the encouragement he needed.

Of course, not every statement in Gray’s book applies 100% to every person, male or female. Gray says this himself in the introduction. But I really did find it to be eerily accurate at least about me, and I’m not even the most feminine of women. When I turned around and started treating my male friends as Gray recommends, the change was so marked one guy friend said, “What happened to you? This is great!” Apparently with a few small changes in the way I spoke to him, I was making him feel like a million bucks, and it wasn’t even that much of a stretch.

So what’s the spiritual point here? :) Love is not just a theory. It needs to be practiced, expressed, given and received to really be love. I believe that loving better on the human level teaches us deeper things about divine Love’s everpresence and omnipotence.

Demonstrable, practical Love. That’s the point.


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