You are standing in front of a dear friend.
You know the admiration or appreciation you have for your friend? About who she is, what she’s saying, or how beautiful she looks in that hat? Or what a kind gesture she offered just now?
You’ve noticed wonderful things about her plenty of times, but you’re not in the habit of saying those things. You hang back a little. You feel her wonderfulness, you appreciate it, but don’t tell her.
She knows, though, right?
SO MANY REASONS FOR NOT SAYING LOVE ALOUD.
You wonder softly to yourself, “Are there other places I don’t speak my appreciation? I wonder if it matters….”
The next day you find yourself thinking how much you appreciate your husband, but again, you don’t say anything. You feel for a minute what life would be like without him. You think about all the things he does for you naturally, what he provides without question year after year.
I mean, why say it, though? He knows how much you appreciate him, right?
You smile inside about things he does, you appreciate him in your heart and surely he knows how much you do. The two of you have unspoken, deep love. Your love is understood.
Besides, you don’t expect effusive thanks for all the things you do, so why go out of your way to thank him?
WHAT ABOUT STRANGERS?
Regarding saying nice things to strangers, it’s a bit risky to say something personal to someone you don’t know, isn’t it? So many things could go wrong, especially if you’re complimenting the opposite sex.
Questions go through your mind. Will I be able to express myself, find the right words? What if I say something that leaves us standing in a bowl of awkward soup? What if my compliment is misinterpreted?
And you think, “Nah. I’ll pass.”
There are many reasons why we might decide to withhold love.
Speaking words of affirmation or affection might not be natural to you. Maybe it’s not your love language. But it is the language of others around you, and it’s nice to be able to communicate in a meaningful way with those “not like you.”
Or… Here’s the big one. Maybe it’s not easy to thank yourself. Give yourself a break. Go easy on yourself.
So, you treat others the same way you treat yourself. Think about it. It is impossible to love others more than you love yourself. Your capacity to love yourself determines your capacity to love another.
(I won’t leave you hanging there for long. I’ll tell you a personal story about Eric and me below. First, a little more about speaking love to strangers.)
MORE ABOUT THAT STRANGER.
This stranger — maybe she’s at Starbucks making coffee. And you’re casually watching her serve a line of customers. You’re amazed at how “in the flow” she is.
Her actions seem practically without effort. Her arms go here and there with incredible efficiency. Her wispy legs move her as if she weighs nothing at all. In fact, she reminds you of a small gazelle, moving with easy grace in service to her line of non-caffeinated humans waiting for their special brew.
When you get up the counter, go ahead, tell her. It will only take a few seconds.
Simply thank her for being light on her feet. Tell her that how she moves will remind you how to move through your day.
Maybe you don’t say she is gazelle-like, although if you know me, you know I probably would. And I’m in western North Carolina where people say (way) more to each other at the grocery check out or the post office counter than they do, say, in California.
(Which was a little shocking when I first moved here…. along with how people take their sweet time driving away from a stop sign or stop light… it took me at least a year to get over that! Ahh, but I digress.)
I’d smile as I told the coffee maiden she reminded me of a gazelle, and love would be pouring from my heart and she’d get it. She’d get the love, and as a bonus, she might very well be entertained by thinking of herself as a Starbucks gazelle.
Because the gazelle thing is not a “normal” compliment, on her next break, she might even look up a National Geographic video to see what gazelles really do.
She’d also probably think about the compliment later, or tell someone, “Hey, do you know what this woman said to me today? She told me I move like a gazelle.” It would at least make her smile.
The point is, it would give her reason to consider her natural beauty even more.
Saying your love aloud is an act of generosity — and not just for the other person. It also changes you, it opens your heart. It helps you.
I PRACTICED ON ERIC.
When things with Eric fell on the rocks somewhere around 2005, I didn’t ask him to change one hair on his head, read a book or go to a self-help class. Or agree with me about anything.
That was an epiphany, a light-bulb moment, a 180 degree turn — to say the least.
I had never considered (in my entire life) not pointing out my husband’s role in a relationship meltdown.
That’s a longer story for sure, but here’s the simple version. Improving my relationship with Eric began with realizing I wasn’t great at giving myself a pat on the back, or approval in general, let alone giving it to someone else — including Eric.
So I practiced on Eric.
I made a pact with him that I’d first notice and then speak aloud the appreciation I felt for him but didn’t normally say. I asked him to be my practicing partner and he agreed.
Saying thank you to him when I felt it changed me entirely.
It opened me. It oiled my Tin Woman heart, which (at first) squeaked and creaked and groaned each time I spoke the appreciation I felt for him.
Which changed me.
Each time I spoke my love, I became lighter, happier, more joyous. I felt more resilient during my day. Things that would normally trouble me rolled off my back.
What I didn’t expect was the impact on Eric.
My voiced appreciation changed his responses to me. He became stronger — again — like he was when I met him. He regained this confidence, accountability, and ability to be super productive. He found his kick-ass humor again.
He also expressed his awareness of my well-being, as in “he’s got my back,” which felt really good.
And then of course it changed us. Completely. We found our love feet. We remembered how to walk in love with each other again.
LOAVES OF LOVE.
Recently, at Underground Bakery in Hendersonville, when it was my turn to pay, I handed the woman at the register my card. (I know her, she’s married, and I’ve spoken to her across the counter many times.)
She wore glasses that fit her face perfectly. Her hair was tied back and wrapped with a scarf like you might do if you’re a baker. She was wearing an apron.
I smiled and said, “How are you?”
Pausing, I watched her face. She smiled at me, as if there was no hurry at all to answer. She was enjoying the question.
(I paused, too, and enjoyed her enjoyment of the question.)
After a bit, I continued. “You know, I bet you’re really good. You look very Zen today. You look beautiful.”
She looked a little shy about what I said and became even more beautiful. But she still didn’t say any words. She smiled in a slightly mysterious Mona Lisa way while she added up my purchases.
I don’t remember the exact order of how things unfolded. But there she was, strikingly gentle and simple in a way that reminded me of an era long ago, maybe summer on the porch, drinking lemonade on a Sunday afternoon, when nobody was in a hurry.
I said playfully (and acted it out a bit), “You must be feeling like ‘Well, hello there, I’m beautiful, how are you, Terri, and what can I do for you today…?”
And then this woman receiving my money for her wonderful bread melted like butter. And then we both melted. It was a teeny tiny love moment.
She was glad to hear what I said. It clearly made a difference to her.
YOU NEVER KNOW ABOUT ANGELS.
While giving a compliment, you might fumble your words or not know quite how to say what you’re feeling. It might feel a little awkward to put what you’re feeling into words. You might not think it’s important to say it.
But, go ahead. Speak your love. Don’t keep it all to yourself. After all, the world could use more out loud love.
You never know, maybe an angel just now whispered in your ear, giving you a message for the person in front of you. Pass on the message. The message of love is for your friend, if you’re willing to deliver it. The angel is looking for someone who can hear.
Could that person be you? Are you listening?
Speak what you hear. Say it simple. Say what the angel gave you to say.
MY TWO CENTS ABOUT LOVE.
…is this. By far the biggest reason for a failed marriage (or any relationship) is love withheld. Today, speak your love. Speak the thankfulness you’re feeling. Do it for yourself. If you make it a practice, it will change you profoundly and forever.
Thank you for reading my blog and for writing to me. I enjoy your comments and always look forward to reading them.
Thank you for absorbing information I write here on the blog. Thank you for contemplating it and using it in your life. Thank you for passing it to others through your words and deeds. Thank you for sending the blog to others who could use it. You tell me you do that, and thank you.
Thank you for expressing your love!