An elephant will stand still, believing it is trapped, when a rope tethers it loosely to a stake in the ground. It can easily pull the stake out and walk free, but its belief that it cannot will keep it trapped in its place. Settling is a great injustice to ourselves and those around us when we continue to believe lies we innocently acquired in our lives which hurt and limit us. We are at the control panel of every single belief we use to live our lives. We owe it not only to ourselves, but also to our loved ones to question and reform those beliefs, especially when doing so would enable us to better love ourselves and others.
I was talking with a dear friend the other day about the “roots of the tree,” or the core beliefs that drive us. I’ve seen him become very stressed over the years as he has taken on the challenges of people around him. He doesn’t just try to help, he also becomes emotionally affected and drained. He was frustrated. “Why do I keep doing this,” he asked. I asked him the same thing. “What will you get if you keep handling the problems of people around you?” I asked. “Love,” he said. I smiled because I understood, because I’d been so motivated in my life to get the love of people around me that I hustled around, sometimes to my own detriment.
I view it as totally human to unconsciously believe that if you do this and that thing for this and that person, you’ll be loved. I’d done it for many years, and I notice this in others too. I can see how it’s a humbling, connecting quality, one which does also motivate us in a well-meaning but inadequate way. However, if we’re going to stay well suited to serve others, we have to also care for ourselves.
I’ve realized that the “grad school level” of the inquiry regarding what motivates us is this: the notion that love exists outside ourselves, that it’s something we even can acquire from another person or thing is pure illusion and a recipe for expectation, exhaustion, and resentment. We all seem to uplink to it. We all experience times when we feel loved (e.g. when we’re at church, with someone or something we love). We are often doing that when we are embracing a person or thing, so we think the source is that person or thing— but it’s not. That person didn’t actually dip in their pockets and dole out a fistful of love. We just oriented ourselves to that person in that moment and created that state of love in ourselves.
If the source of love is not another person or thing, then the whole exercise in chasing it is futile. We must find the source of love within ourselves. Only then we are free to deliver out of the pure joy of loving, free of exhaustion and resentment.