Most of us have been living with insufficient Real Love all our lives. Although this condition is nearly intolerably painful, we become so accustomed to it that we have come to accept it as normal. We enjoy our momentary diversions and deceptions with Imitation Love, and we believe these to be all the happiness we will ever know. And why wouldn’t we? We are surrounded by people in conditions almost identical to our own, people who also believe that the temporary and superficial satisfaction they receive from Imitation Love is true happiness.
I have now spoken to thousands of such people, and many of them, when given an opportunity to partake of the far greater joy that comes from Real Love, simply cannot imagine a life different than that sustained by Imitation Love. When Real Love is described to them, they want to analyze it, dissect it, compare it to other things, and otherwise talk about it. They want to understand how it works and to receive guarantees of miracles before they take a single step on the path to actually experiencing Real Love.
I have seen men and women talk and talk about Real Love before tasting its power and its delights, and when they do, I imagine them to be like a man crawling out of the desert after being lost for many days, dying of thirst and starvation. This man crawls up to me, in fact, and asks for nourishment and water.
In that moment, I could deliver a lecture on the workings of the Krebs citric acid cycle, knowledge of which will be indispensable if he is to understand how the food he will eat—carbohydrates, proteins, and fats—will be converted into the adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) that is the primary source of usable energy within the mitochondria of his cells. Or I could discuss how cellular membrane permeability is altered to allow rehydration of the cells and extra-cellular spaces. But would these fascinating discussions give life to the man dying of thirst and lack of food? He would, in fact, be insulted if I offered such explanations. His needs are simple. He wants only to be given food and water, and in that moment he will simply eat and drink. After he is filled and fully recovered, he might be interested in scientific explanations, but certainly not before.
There is a comparison to be made here between food and Real Love. People who have lived all their lives without sufficient Real Love are literally starving to death. Their emotional pain and the urgency of their needs are every bit as real as those of a man dying of physical deprivations. When it comes to our emotional needs, however, we human beings are usually quite clueless. We know how to satisfy the needs of our bodies, but rarely do we have the same wisdom regarding the needs of our souls.
And so it is that even when we’re starving to death emotionally, we do ask for explanations, rather than simply eating the food and drinking the water available to us. To illustrate everything we have been talking about thus far, allow me to tell the story of a highly educated man, Dr. Ben Mitchell, who spoke with me one day about Real Love.
Ben entertained me at length with his knowledge of psychological theories and techniques, and then he requested an explanation of the workings of Real Love. I explained the principles briefly, and he responded with more and more questions. When I told him that in order to actually experience Real Love, it would be absolutely essential for him to tell the truth about himself to people and create opportunities to be unconditionally accepted, he protested that he couldn’t see how an activity as simple as calling people on the phone could ever change his life. He just couldn’t see himself doing that. Of course, he was just afraid, but he couldn’t see that or express it.
I finally said, “Ben, you’ve been living without Real Love for forty-five years. You’ve been unhappy for most of that time—you’ve been empty and afraid and starving to death—and you’ve proven with your own experience that finding love and happiness in your own way is a complete failure. Now I’m describing to you a means for finding Real Love and genuine happiness that I have seen work with amazing consistency, and you want to talk about it, analyze it, and even dispute it. You have every right to do that, but in your condition—starving—wouldn’t it make more sense to just eat?”
“How do I do that?” he asked.
“You could take in what you’re being offered right now,” I said.
“I don’t understand.”
“I’ve just spent the last hour talking to you. In that time you’ve admitted that your marriage is pretty lousy, that you’re not a loving father, that you’ve been relatively unhappy your entire life, and that you’re afraid your whole life has been a failure. Is that fair to say?”
“Well, that’s kind of direct, but yeah, that’s pretty much it.”
“Not exactly a flattering picture of you, would you say?”
“Not when you put it that way, no.”
“And how have I responded to hearing all that?”
“Well, I haven’t really thought about it.”
“No, you haven’t, so you’ve been missing the most important point of our conversation.”
“All your life you’ve had to be successful and please people in order to earn their acceptance, haven’t you?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“And how has that felt?”
“It’s exhausting. I feel pressured and trapped all the time.”
“Not loved?” I asked.
“And what about here, right now? What have you done to look successful or please me or otherwise earn my acceptance?”
“Nothing. In fact, I’ve told you the stuff that hasn’t made me look very good.”
“Exactly. And my response? Like you said, you haven’t thought about it, but think about it now. Have I been disappointed—in even the slightest degree—about these many flaws that you’ve admitted? Or critical? Or disgusted?”
“No, not really.”
“So if I haven’t been the least bit disappointed in any way, what’s another word for that?”
“So say it in a sentence. How do I feel toward you?”
“This is hard to say.”
“Oh, I understand. It’s one of the most difficult things for any of us to say, especially for men. We can tell other people we care about them, but it’s much harder for us to state that other people care about us. So try it again. How do I feel about you?”
“You accept me.”
“So put it all together.”
“You accept me unconditionally.”
“Nice. Now that you’ve said it with words, can you feel it?”
“I guess I’m not entirely sure of it.”
“Understandable. As far as I can tell from our conversation, you’ve never experienced unconditional acceptance, so it would be little wonder that you’d doubt it, even when it’s being offered. But as long as you choose to doubt a thing—which is a choice as much as faith is a choice—nobody will ever be able to prove the truth of that thing to you. In every instance, you’ll see the negative in that thing, so no proof will ever count. But look at the evidence so far. Have you seen any reason to suppose that I do not accept you unconditionally?”
“Do you pay me for my time?”
“No, which I find fascinating. I’ve never seen a counselor or professional speaker do that before.”
“So can you think of any other reason for my interest in you other than having an unconditional concern for your happiness?”
Ben paused for some time before saying, “No, I really can’t.”
“So you have a choice here. You can doubt that Real Love exists. You can doubt that you’re receiving it right now. You can insist on analyzing it. But if you do all that, your life will stay the same. Or you can just eat. You can partake of the emotional nourishment and healing that only Real Love can provide. Are you willing to do a little experiment with me?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Close your eyes and entertain the possibility that you might have found just a small taste of the unconditional acceptance you’ve been looking for your entire life. Just eat. Give it a shot.”
And then I walked out of the room. When I came back into the room several minutes later, Ben had his eyes open, and he was very sober.
“I don’t understand it completely,” he said, “but I do understand now what you mean by just eat. I realize that while I’ve been here with you—while you’ve been unconditionally accepting me—I have felt more peaceful than I have in a long time. And the more I recognize and accept that, rather than being skeptical about it, the more peaceful I feel.”
In those few moments, Ben took the first few steps toward changing the rest of his life.
Real Love is far more than a concept. It’s a very real power, a power that eliminates emptiness and fear and anger and contention, and it accomplishes these functions with greater effectiveness than any other force in the universe. If you really want to understand Real Love, partake of it. Do whatever you can to create those opportunities to feel the acceptance and love of wise men and women. Enjoy that nourishment at every opportunity, and it will change your life.