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Dr. Boyce Watkins
FYI: I should be on the NPR show "Tell Me More with Michel Martin", a journalist for whom I have tremendous respect. We recorded today with Shelby Steele, a conservative scholar out at Stanford and another scholar named Jon Powell, at Ohio State. The conversation is interesting, and I recommend you give it a listen. You can learn more about the show at this link: http://www.npr.org/blogs/tellmemore/.
I also got another call yesterday from "The Big O"...yes, you know who I am talking about. Apparently, there is some interest in my Financial Lovemaking Book. I'll keep you posted on that one, since I am not 100% sure if my demographic matches that of the Great Ms. Winfrey. While I feel that Financial Lovemaking can work well for her audience, my alignment with the hip hop community may make for an awkward fit. The fact that I engage in critical analysis (meaning that no one is 100% good or 100% bad) means that I sometimes make enemies in this game because of my refusal to kiss anyone's butt too much. But I do give respect where it is due, and I consider Oprah to be an amazing role model for all of us. The same goes for President Obama.
In light of the fact that Valentine’s Day is coming, I was thinking about the whole idea of love. I must also admit that I thought about love when I noticed the singer Chris Brown might have ruined his career in this mad situation with Rihanna (apparently, there may be some abuse in that relationship, I’m not sure). Either way, I think that anyone who has been young and in a relationship understands how stupid and crazy things can happen. I’ve never considered Chris Brown to be a bad person. But he may have done a bad thing.
Seeing the huge loss that these two young people may have imposed on their lives (Chris and Rihanna), led me to reflect on love and what it means to me. Here is my personal perspective on love….love it or hate it (haha).
What Love Should and Should Not Be
By Dr. Boyce Watkins
I’ve lived a bit of life and made my share of mistakes. But as a professor, I am trained to learn from poor choices and grow from them. Most processes have a purpose and a pattern. If you think hard enough and honestly confront your failures, triumphs and observations, you can usually walk away with a bit of insight. The term “No pain, no gain”, can certainly be applied in the game of love, and I intend to gain from my own personal portfolio of blissful heartache.
So, I’ve come up with some “Rules of Love” out of respect for Valentine’s Day. It’s not scientific and not a fit for everyone. But it comes from the head, the heart and all the other body parts I can’t mention in this article. So, at least you know it’s sincere.
Love should be RESPECTED: One of the silliest things I see in some relationships is that people seem to be most interested in chasing the person who loves them the least, while kicking their greatest admirers to the curb. They choose the best option they can GET instead of the best option they’ve already GOT. There is something that people love about a challenge. It can be a natural instinct to equate kindness with weakness and easy access with a lack of value. Many of us are guilty of crying over the person who ignores us and ignoring the person who cries for us. Someone who gives you their heart can also take it away, so we must respect those who’ve truly earned it.
Love should be EXPECTED: Part of the reason that some of us spend our time chasing the loser who doesn’t love us is because deep down, we feel that someone who cares for us must be flawed or unworthy of our time. On the other hand, it is easy to feel sorry for yourself when you see that the one you usually want doesn’t want you back. The truth of the matter is that if someone disrespects the appreciation you are showing toward them, then they don’t deserve your love anyway. You should love yourself enough to walk away from those who choose not to treat you as you deserve to be treated.
Love should be given to YOURSELF: Part of demanding the love that you deserve is engaging in the difficult art of SELF LOVE. Many times, we look in the emotional mirror and see blemishes, flaws, faults, mistakes and the ugliest sides of who we are. Rather than greeting the world with our heads held high, we keep our heads down and hope no one notices that we are not as good as everyone else. Loving yourself is similar to learning to love another person: there is a point where you must simply accept the flaws. You must realize that you are no more defective and no more perfect than everyone else, and that you too deserve to be happy. If you can’t love yourself, then it’s damn near impossible to truly love someone else, since you are only offering them what you perceive to be damaged goods.
Love is meant to be CELEBRATED: I’ve admittedly never been able to fully grasp the concept of homosexuality, but I’ve never had a problem with gay marriage. One thing I believe is that love was created by GOD: that includes love between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman. There should not be religious, social or racial boundaries imposed on meaningful love, for we do not get to choose the shape, size or complexion of the package. When God blesses someone with such a powerful connection, this love should be celebrated by all of us and not judged or held in contempt. Melting someone’s halo of happiness by dousing it with a flood of hate is a counter-productive use of our time and a wasteful spiritual endeavor.
Valentine’s Day is meant to be YEAR ROUND: You should not need a special holiday to show someone you love them. You should tell them something good, positive, and affirming every time you see them, because this will make that person feel good. You should not need corporate America’s permission and some hyper-commercialized holiday as your excuse to show affection. I encourage you to say ten nice things per day to people you care about, which may include complimenting them on their clothes, their hair, their personality, their beauty or their presence. It will make them feel good and leave a lasting psychological impact. Our words are “emotional money” and we should be consistently making donations.
Love should be REFLECTIVE: The hardest way to get what you want is to selfishly pursue it, take it or relentlessly absorb it. That’s like waiting for your paycheck and never showing up for work. If you are in a truly loving situation, you get what you want by REFLECTING IT. If you WANT more success out of life, you GIVE more hard work. If you WANT better grades, you GIVE more time to the library. If you WANT more appreciation from your partner, you GIVE more attention and affection. If you choose to share your love with someone who deserves it, then they will give the love right back to you, with interest. Like a healthy economy, the cycle will become recursive and productive trade increases the value of each partner’s “Life Portfolio”. In pleasure, pain and everything in between, to get more, you must give more. You must also make payments in the currency deemed most valuable to your partner. There’s no way around that fact.
Love should be PRACTICED: Love is not just a feeling, an emotion, a whim or something that makes your skin shiver. Loving someone is a DELIBERATE ACT and a series of habits designed to sustain and maintain the relationship you have with one another. The work of the greatest writers in history was not always driven by inspiration and a desire to write…..sometimes, it was the act of sitting down each day and forcing themselves to write which eventually inspired them to do their greatest work. In other words, love is a series of proactive habits, choices and behaviors that correlate with your desire to have a meaningful and stable relationship with another person. It’s not something you just randomly “fall into” and “out of”…..it is something you choose to do.
Love should be CONTEMPLATED: When it comes to dating, I tell my daughter and God daughters the following: “If a man is not someone you can see raising your children, then don’t even go out on the first date.” They look at me like I’m crazy, but the point is simple: While you cannot easily choose to release yourself from the psychological grips of love, you have some ability to choose who you are going to fall in love with in the beginning. Most of us don’t meet someone and decide that we are going to be with this person for years. There is always the first glance, the first date, the first kiss, the first touch, and before you know it, you’re stuck in a situation that doesn’t make any sense to you. So, if you don’t start with point A, you can never reach point Z. This makes the most sense when you can see that point Z is not the place you want to visit with this particular person.
Love should be REMEMBERED: A big challenge for many young or single people (and even those who are married) is that we spend our time chasing the love and affection that is most intriguing to our hormones, while ignoring the love that is most tried and true. A man might spend hours on the phone with a pretty lady who doesn’t even like him, but simultaneously ignore his grandmother who would gladly give her life for him. Valentine’s Day is not just the day you send “sweets to your sweetie”. It is also the day you shower love on your mother, brother, sister, father, best friend, homeboy, children, grand parents and all the people who will love you long after your sweetie has become sweet on someone else. In the city of love, new buildings are shiniest and most appealing. But the older buildings are the sturdiest and most enduring.
Love is LIFE: Not only does the act of love create and sustain life, it is also the greatest part of our journey through life. We may or may not remember or be inspired by our professional or educational achievements, but we have an immediate and powerful emotional reaction when we reflect on the love we’ve experienced over the years. Thinking about children, family or ex-lovers can create an emotional response that can’t be matched by a corporate job or advanced degree. I tell my students that one of the most important decisions they will ever make is who they choose to spend their lives with. I’ve seen many people drive themselves down the path to hell by choosing to share their love with someone who deserves it the least. Like the most amazing roller coaster, the journey of love is long, complicated, exciting, scary and fulfilling. So, while we’re on this journey, we should make sure we turn on the GPS.
Happy Valentine’s Day and I hope this day inspires you to find the love that exists in your life. It’s all around you if you learn to look for it. Even in an economy like this one, the love in your life can make you a billionaire.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.