The greatest human problem is a want of love, and the simplest antidote is confessing our love—telling people, “I love you.”
Why does anyone need to restate the obvious, since everyone already knows it? Paul McCartney sang,
You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs
I look around me and I see it isn’t so
Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs
And what’s wrong with that
Right. There are no silly love songs, it only feels that way. Haven’t I already said this a thousand times? Who needs to hear it again?
I sat last night in a circle of parents. A few times a year I offer to talk with Moms and Dads slogging it out with adolescents who live uneasily under their roof. All the usual problems came up—kids who wouldn’t take out the trash or clean their rooms, the spectre of alcohol, sex, weed, and overexposure on the Internet. But the underlying theme of parental angst in the teen years is simply disconnection. The boy who stays in his room, the girl who doesn’t talk to you anymore. It feels for all the world like this kid doesn’t like you, doesn’t really want you in his or her life.
After an hour or so of discussion I reminded the group that studies continue to show that the most influential person in an adolescent’s life are the parents: Mom and Dad. Immediately I got a few skeptical looks. But it’s true. Peer pressure is enormous and what friends think matters enormously, but for the basic needs of love, affirmation and, yes, even the discipline they know it takes to succeed in school and life, teens look to their parents. You’d never know that by their outward behavior, which is why so many parents live in an emotional stand-off. This aloof kid does not look like he’d accept a hug right now. The girl with the snarly lip this morning clearly won’t accept a kiss.
The most important thing you can do, I said, is to love your kids—tell them how much you love them. Affirm them, bless them. Make it explicit, I said. Hug them. Kiss them, even if they squirm. Say things your child will think are corny, like “You are the apple of my eye,” and “I will always remember the day and the hour you were born,” or “You just look so handsome this morning,” or “You look so beautiful in that dress.”
The key to loving others is to remember how resistant people are to being loved. It is the one thing every human needs to live (remember the infants in hospital nurseries who die for lack of loving touch), yet we are ashamed to show it. Often we believe we don’t deserve it. That is why learning to love others inevitably means learning to know your own deep need and the many defenses you throw up against any incoming waves of love. In other words, you cannot offer love to others if you cannot accept it yourself.
Someone needs to know you love them. Tell them today.