8 Ways to Strengthen Love at Home

Mother Teresa has been in the news lately. Even though I am not a Catholic, I rejoice that she will be canonised in September this year.  To me, Mother Teresa was the epitome of love. She had spent her life pouring out her love to “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” You don’t have to be a Catholic or Christian to feel or receive her love. Her love was universal.

While Mother Teresa was known for administering to the poorest of the poor of different faiths, she had a lot to say about love at home. This article is inspired by her words of wisdom on this subject matter.

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.

Mother Teresa, Nobel Lecture, 11 Dec 1979

This sentence has stayed with me since the first time I read it eons ago. Love. It all begins at home. I can’t do what she did on the streets of Calcutta . But I can pour love into the actions that I do at home.

All the quotes below were extracted from Mother Teresa’s book, “Thirsting for God”. Though the book was a collection of her meditations, the quotes I’ve used are not “religious”.  They are words of wisdom for everyone.  For each of her quote, I have also raised some questions for us to ponder. The questions are meant to increase our awareness so that henceforth we can choose how much love we want to put in the action that we do at home.

1: “Love begins at home—–everything depends on how we love one another at home.”

Home is where the heart is. It is the place where our hearts are most vulnerable. It is the place where our hearts yearn love. When we are loved, we can conquer the world. When we do not feel loved, everything falls apart. How we love one another at home sets the foundation for our interaction with the world. As parents, spouse and children, we wield immense power in shaping the world through what we do at home.

Questions to ponder:

  • How do we love one another at home?
  • Is it unconditional or conditional love?
  • Do we wage a cold war on our spouse, children or parents if they do something we don’t agree with?
  • When our children misbehave or throw a tantrum, do we seek to understand why, or do we demand that they stop this instant?
  • Do we put ourselves in their shoes with their thoughts, beliefs AND maturity, not ours?
  • Do we empathise with how they are hurting?

2: “Much of the hurt in our homes comes from uncontrolled use of words, said anywhere, in front of other people. Let us open our eyes to the harm we do.”

Words have power. The saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” cannot be further than the truth. Most times, our physical injuries from “sticks and stones” will heal, but the caustic words said to us will continue to hurt and haunt us years after they were uttered. Words can either be fertilisers that encourage growth, or they can be poisons that kill or stunt growth.

Questions to ponder:

  • What words do we use on our children? Spouse? Family members?
  • How would we feel if those words were used on us?
  • What kinds of impact do those words have on the emotional and psychological health of our loved ones?
  • What can we say to our loved ones instead?

3: “Criticism is nothing less than dressed up pride… Refrain from prejudice, which means to set your mind against somebody. It is very sad when it becomes a part of our lives.”

We are all guilty of being judgers. We judge our children and our spouse. We judge our parents, our in-laws, our siblings. We even judge ourselves!! Self criticism is a topic in and of itself and I will not touch on here. But criticism of others is a reflection of our self righteousness. When we criticise, it is nothing more than saying “I am right and you are wrong. My beliefs and values are right, yours are wrong. The way I do things is right and the way you do things is wrong.” Criticism is our ego talk. Instead of criticising, attempt to understand. Or even better, do something to help. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

Questions to ponder:

  • What do we criticize about others?
  • Why did they do what they did?
  • Do we understand what they are REALLY going through, not what we think they are going through?
  • If we were struggling with the same issues we are critical of, be it punctuality, lack of attention, or worse infidelity, how would we like to be helped?
  • How can we help those whom we are now criticising?

4: “Find at least one good point in the other person and build from there. In the family, you should thank each other, mentioning the good you have seen others do.”

In psychology, there’s a phenomenon called Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or “frequency illusion”. When we are made aware of something, subconsciously, we keep looking out for that something. Likewise, when we focus on the good of others, we will keep seeing the good. Not only will we keep seeing the good that others do now because we have become unconsciously attuned to acts of goodness, the people doing the acts keep doing them because they are encouraged to continue doing so.

Questions to ponder:

  • What labels do we give to our children?
  • What is one good thing about each of our loved ones?
  • How does that one good thing affect the way he/she behaves and treats others?
  • What other positive traits does this person have?

5: “Today, we see that all the suffering in the world has started from the home. Today, we have not time even to look at each other, to talk to each other, to enjoy each other, and still less to be what our children expect from us, what the husband expects from the wife, what the wife expects from the husband. And so more and more we are homeless at home because less and less are in touch with each other.”

Many have accused the pervasiveness of technology for the collapse of family communication because people start turning to their mobile devices at every available (and unavailable) moment. Family members spend more time staring at their mobile devices than they do looking at one another. They spend more time texting with their friends, or keeping in touch with virtual friends on social media than they spend with their families. But the same technology also allows the family to be in touch when someone is physically away. The fault is not in the technology. It lies with how we use the technology.

It all begins with love. For there to be love, there needs to be connection. For there to be connection, there needs to be interaction. For there to be interaction, there needs to be time spent together. For there to be time spent together, there needs to be a commitment to want to bond. For there to be a commitment to want to bond, there needs to be love.  It all begins with love.

Questions to ponder:

  • How do we stay connected with our loved ones?
  • How often do we tell our loved ones we love them?
  • How often do we SHOW our loved ones we love them?
  • Do we even know how our loved ones want to be loved?
  • What is one thing we can do to be available for our loved ones?

6: “You must open your eyes wide so that you can see the opportunities to give wholehearted free service right where you are, in your family. If you don’t give such service in your family, you will not be able to give it to those outside your home.”

As cliché as this may sound, ask not what our family can do for us; ask what we can do for our family. And it refers to every single member of our family. By “service”, I take it to mean several things. It could be a word of encouragement or love. It could be spending some time together. It could be giving a gift, or a massage. Or it could be as simple as running an errand for that person. These services show our love in different forms to our loved ones. We need to open our eyes wide to know what kinds of services are needed and yearned. The service required of us may not be a service we feel comfortable doing. For example I dread giving gifts. I see it as an encouragement of materialism. But my daughter lights up whenever she receives something, even if it doesn’t cost anything. So I put in an effort to either make her something or buy her something once in a while. That is because that is the “service” she craves from me to know I love her and I cannot deny her that just because it is not a service I like to provide.

Questions to ponder:

  • Do we really know what kinds of “service” our family need from us?
  • How do we find out the kinds of service they need?
  • What can we do to provide those services?

7: “We must reach the heart. To reach the heart, we must do—–love is proven in deeds. People are attracted more by what they see than by what they hear.

If I want my children to be kind, first I need to be kind, not just tell them to be kind. I need to model what kindness is in deeds and in words. If I want my children to be polite, first I need to be polite. I need to model courtesy not only to my peers or those more senior than I, but also courtesy to the children themselves, and especially to the “invisibles” of our society, the cleaners, domestic workers, construction workers etc. The values I want my children to learn must be applied to all stations of life, not only the higher echelons. Children are very sharp and they will pick up inconsistencies in our actions and words. When we tell our children we love them, we need to show it to them ALL THE TIME. Even when we need to discipline them, it needs to be done with love, not in anger.  It is through our actions that we teach and show values.  It is through our actions they feel our love.

Questions to ponder:

  • What do we need to do to show our love?
  • What kind of values do we want to inculcate in our children?
  • How do we walk the talk in inculcating love and values in our children?

8: “Let us make our homes real places of love so that we can overcome any hatred. “

That, my friends, wraps up this blog post. The way to overcome hatred is with love. The path to peace is through love. And it begins at home. May we all parent with love.

Please leave us your comments. We’d love to hear from you!

– Vivian –

 

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