By Shewanda Riley
“The one who loves least controls the relationship.” I can’t remember who said this however, this saying has always resonated as one of the most truthful statements I’ve heard about relationship dynamics. It’s a challenging thing to recognize because sometimes we spend so much time trying to convince the other person how much we love them that we don’t realize they stopped loving us a long time ago. More importantly, we justify doing some inappropriate things because of “love” without realizing that if we really loved that person or thing, we would let them go.
For example, I was talking to a friend about the stress that one family member in particular had put on their siblings regarding the long-term terminal illness of their youngest sibling. All of the other siblings agreed about what to do concerning the family member who was put on hospice… except this one. She insisted that the sister who was dying remain on life support with the reason that she loved her sister too much to see her die. Despite the fact that the dying sister’s sons cried every time they had to visit their mother and see her hooked up to machines, this one sibling accused the others of not loving their sister and wanting to kill her. When asked repeatedly by the other siblings why she was acting that way, the sister simply stated, “Because I must love her more than you do.”
It was clear to everyone, including doctors, the “loving” sibling who insisted on keeping the other sister alive had selfish motives that had nothing to do with loving her sister more than the others. In fact, one doctor offered that if she really loved her sister, she would not want her to suffer anymore. It took a lot of persuasion but the “loving” sibling was eventually convinced to relinquish the medical power of attorney so that the wishes of her sister’s adult children would prevail. A few short days later, the woman, who had suffered with brain cancer for 5 years, was able to peacefully transition and died with her family at her side.
Watching these events from the outside made me think about how often it is the one who claims boldly how much they love someone or something the most is sometimes the one who really loves the least. Often what they really love is being able to selfishly manipulate and control others. As 2022 ends, I’m thinking about how many times my own declarations of love were thinly masked attempts to control others.
I Corinthians 13:4-8 speaks about all of the characteristics of love. When you study this amazing scriptural passage, you see how powerful love is not just because of how it transforms the object of love by how it transforms the one who loves. Loving well transforms others and most importantly it transforms you. My hope for 2023 is to spend less time superficially saying how much I love and more time authentically showing it to others.
Shewanda Riley is a Dallas, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.