The Problem with "Love"

“Love” is one of those words that I wish was not used in spirituality. We use the word in two ways when discussing human love and only one of them describes the experience of True Love. This leads to confusion as the two ideas become conflated.

As humans when we say “I love you” we mean “I like you a lot”, “I enjoy you”, “I enjoy being with you”, “I like how I feel about myself when I am with you”, “I enjoy the role that I play in our relationship”, “I am grateful to you for the role that you play in our relationship” and/or “I’m obligated to you through a family connection”. In these contexts “I love you” really means “I am attached to you in some way”.

We feel attachment-love only when we love others not when others love us. When others attachment-love us what we experience is a safe place to be ourselves. Others’ attachment-love for us brings emotional and practical support to our lives in the world. But their experience of attachment-love for us does not leave them and then go into us. If we don’t value ourselves their stating, or even demonstrating, their attachment-love for us is meaningless to us.

The experience of attachment-love is valuable for preserving the human race and for preserving and enhancing individual human lives. But the experience does not make you feel whole. And “wholeness” is the other meaning we have for “love”.

When we speak of True Love – spiritual “love”, or “God’s Love” – what we mean is an experience of wholeness. It is an experience of abundance rather than lack. And this is what we really seek in our relationships with others. This is what we hope to find in our love for others or in their love for us. And human attachment-love does not provide this. It is inherently limited.

Human attachment-love is always directed toward someone or something. True Love, as an experience of wholeness, is not directed toward anyone or anything. It is an internal experience that you carry with you. So you can understand the confusion that comes with spiritual directives like, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” From a human point of view you think this means you have to like everyone! And this is of course not possible so you end up feeling like a failure. But if you understand that “love” in this context means “wholeness” you understand that to love your neighbor as yourself is to come from your awareness of your wholeness in Truth in your relationship with them. And to recognize that no matter how they appear to you or what they seem to think that they too are whole in the Truth in their mind. You hold in your mind that Truth is all that is true no matter what is appearing.

In your awareness of True Love you do not direct love only toward certain others. You come from your awareness of your wholeness in your relationships with all, regardless of whether they are close to you or are strangers; whether you like them or not. You still feel attachment to those close to you simply out of familiarity. And your personality will enjoy some people more than others. But you do not ask anyone to make you whole. You accept others as they are. And you are willing to let anyone go should it become necessary.

When you find yourself seeking to feel whole then you are not seeking human attachment-love. You are seeking for the True Love (abundant wholeness) that is your True Being. And you can only find this within. You grow your awareness that you already have It within you by choosing to come from this awareness in your relationships with others. This is the practice of “what you give you receive” or “what you teach you learn” that A Course in Miracles emphasizes. You can give only to yourself. And you can teach only yourself. You give to and teach yourself that lack is real when you choose to look for wholeness where you will not find it. And you give to and teach yourself that you are whole when you come from your awareness of abundant wholeness (True Love) within you as you interact with the world.

Learn about the books The ACIM Mentor Articles, The Plain Language A Course in Miracles, 4 Habits for Inner Peace, and Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace at


will said…
I'm sure mother's everywhere will applaud this piece.
will said…
For a more in depth look at attachment love from a spiritual perspective read Anthony de Mello's book, Awake
Bat said…
thanks for this post, liz.
Christine said…
Love and
that's our Will! Glad you're back!
Christine said…
While most of us are just concentrating on the "bunny rabbits and butterflies" in the "pretty spring meadow", Will is the part of Us that goes for the dark and ugly underbelly, nay, the drains and sewers of the septic system, which lies right underneath the "pretty spring meadow"! I am grateful to him for not letting us be lulled into a stupor of convenience. On the other hand, I do believe we can be vigilant (rooting out error, or what's still unhealed in our mind) and be totally at Peace. Plus: we can be Joyous, too! I just re-discovered JOY recently by reading something Will had suggested a while ago. So, I am grateful - just sayin', with 'no attachment'!!
Anonymous said…
I So LOVE (big grin) Anthony the Mello and his teachings...
Anonymous said…
No wholeness without the dark septic underbelly.
"NO Mud,
NO Lotus" says Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn.
Happy Happy is a delusion.
The art of living is taking the lows and the highs with equal equanimity and acceptance. It's a state of mind.

Realising everything is here for a while.
It comes up and goes away again.
And it depends on our desire and clinging how long things last.

Anonymous said…
I read this post 3 times (learned a new word "conflated") and thank you Liz, you just masterfully and succinctly summed up the classroom of struggle I've been in with my family, attachment-love, the I'm obligated to you kind with all the multitude of expectations. Something I had questioned for years until ACIM. All those times at family gatherings and how I would leave feeling deflated, no true connection. Then this past Christmas, I found myself addressing everyone in the room as I shared a story of my Dad and I guess I can describe it as an out of body experience, love flowed through as I experienced the awareness of wholeness in my relationship with all. It stayed with me for some time. Then earlier in the week a family member attempted to place an expectation on me and I saw the guilt within so classroom still in session, remembering, "I give to and teach myself that I am whole when I come from my awareness of abundant wholeness (True Love) within."
Anonymous said…
Liz you say that true love doesn't mean you have to like everyone. Can you be proyecting guilt when you don't like a brother. How to not feel guilty for not liking a brother? I've read a couple of times today's post (sooo inspired)and got stucked with this. Thank you a lot.
ACIM Mentor said…
Sometimes you may be projecting. Sometimes it's just a matter of personality. In either case it has nothing to do with Truth. When you recognize that you will be free of guilt.
will said…
“…anger makes attack seem reasonable, honestly provoked, and righteous in the name of self-defense…Attack, defense; defense, attack, become the circles of the hours and the days that bind the mind in heavy bands of steel with iron overlaid, returning but to start again. There seems to be no break nor ending in the ever-tightening grip of the Imprisonment upon the mind...You are its slave. You know not what you do in fear of it… You do not realize what you have done to sabotage the holy peace of God…” Lesson 153
It has been a hard month; a hard month for everyone around me.
will said…
The ego is patting itself on the back for having written that. A job well done! No matter my intention. I am watching it. Madness and sickness passing for sanity.
Christine said…
The Art of Spiritual Healing, by Joel S. Goldsmith, is what I have read (also suggested by Will), then that has lead to reading The Infinite Way (and Will said that these include 'apples and oranges' - take what you can from the pages...). I know Goldsmith's is not the Course's teaching, but it unlocked something in my mind - it uncorked Joy...and going back and reading passages from the Text of the Course, lessons, Liz's books, too - I see what I was missing!
Christine said…
And this is not "joy" because everything is "going 'right'"! Nothing (in the story) has really changed - just my consciousness has been raised....
Anonymous said…
"In either case it has nothing to do with Truth"... And yes, it's true because there's no one to like or dislike. Thank you Liz for this insight!
Anonymous said…
A day of peace as I watching how my day enfolds, and I revisit an early lesson, Lesson 32 "I have invented the world I see" and I am reminded that "I have invented this situation as I see it," either it be one of joy, laughter and sweetness or pain, tears and bitterness. "While you want it you will see it; when you no longer want it, it will not be there for you to see." Hard to accept as I also revisited how the past few days played out. What an imagination. My ego should receive a golden globe award.
will said…
For Will, the ego is not me. It's us. All of us. Waiting in the wings. Judging.
will said…
"One brother is all brothers. Every mind contains all minds, for every mind is one. Such is the truth. Yet do these thoughts make clear the meaning of creation? Do these words bring perfect clarity with them to you? What can they seem to be but empty sounds; pretty perhaps, correct in sentiment, yet fundamentally not understood nor understandable. The mind that taught itself to think specifically can no longer grasp abstraction in the sense that it is all-encompassing."
Lesson 161

I didn't write this stuff. The ego is waiting in the wings hidden behind pretty words.
Anonymous said…
Hmm, all comments, one mind . . .
will said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
will said…
Correction: I wish I could think it is a gift given to me.
will said…
Sometimes I just have to take my comments down. I don't care about you guys but I get concerned people that actually know me may read some of this stuff and there are a few...LOL of God that's funny.
Anonymous said…
The problem with "love" is the human condition and expectation which needs to be transcended. The old Rolling Stones song comes to mind "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (but you always get what you need) This journey/school is about human relationships too and despite wherever you're at with Woody Allen; "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs. " :-)
Anonymous said…
How many sorrows
Do you try to hide
In a world of illusion
That's covering your mind?
I'll show you something good,
Oh I'll show you something good.
When you open your mind,
You'll discover the sign
That there's something
You're longing to find.

The miracle of love
Will take away your pain,
When the miracle of love
Comes your way again.

"Miracle of Love" (Eurythmics)

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