How to Receive Love

I can share how to receive love. But I’m not an expert; kinda hate that word. I’m not a psychologist, a sex expert, a theologian, or a professor. I do have a couple degrees in philosophy and theology, and some studies in psychology.

Andrew Lee Sullivan: I Learned How to Receive Love
Andrew Lee Sullivan: I Learned How to Receive Love

But none of this really qualify’s me to speak about love. The bottom line: I can speak about how to receive love because of my unique experience in life.

Cutting to the chase: I was a suicidal Catholic priest, entrapped in a cult for twenty-eight years. Stuck in Rome, I lived in despair, wishing I’d just die. I never felt love. My retarded emotions wouldn’t allow it. Then, a miracle happened. I discovered how to receive God’s love. Overwhelming torrents of love poured into me with such force that I begged God to lessen the intensity. The whole experience changed me entirely. Yes, I can speak about receiving love. Here’s a few gems I’ve learned:

The Grand Distinction of Love – Receiving or Giving

There’s a grand distinction in the world of love: receiving love or giving love. Most people tend to focus on giving love. Perhaps giving is emphasized because it seems more in our control to “achieve.” We’re entrenched in a “doing” society, and great emphasis is placed on our actions and accomplishments. We highly value whatever we can do. Accordingly, receiving love seems insignificant or second place to the sparkle of expressive giving.

Learn How to Receive Love
Learn How to Receive Love

How are these two modes of love related? If we’re emotionally healthy human beings, they actually should work together. Like breathing, I inhale air and then exhale. So, I receive love and then let it overflow to another. Just as there are two modes of breathing, there are these two modes of loving. I accept love and let it fill me with its many positive fruits, and then let it naturally flow back into the world. Receiving love is actually a quality component of giving love.

Which mode of love is more important? It depends on how you look at the question. From a human developmental perspective, receiving love is more important. It establishes the emotional foundation that enables a person to give love with enjoyment. From a moral perspective, giving love is more important. Our freely chosen acts of love make other’s happy and form us into morally responsible human beings. Receiving love then make us capable of loving with ease and enjoyment, and giving love makes us caring and compassionate. Both are important, each in their own way.

Receiving Love Comes First

Here’s a quick look at how love naturally starts us off in life. I’m speaking of the ideal here. We’ll cover the imperfections a bit later. Love should play out like this: The romantic and soft love of the couple expands and overflows into the newborn. Just as mother’s milk lavishes a rich mixture of everything the infant needs for physical development, so human love does the same to develop the infant emotionally. This love is unconditional, quality, sensual love. It’s expressive to a high degree with totally accepting hugs, kisses, sacred words, skin touching upon skin, penetrating eyes, and pure adoration.

How to Receive Love
How to Receive Love

This unselfish love soaks into the flesh and passes through the eyes, ears, and skin. The infant’s senses are the doorways of entering love. This lavish love doesn’t remain on the superficial level of the skin. It gradually penetrates into the very emotional constitution of the person and keeps going, slipping into the human spirit. It later stamps the intellect with core truths of being loved. Over time, this love results in an emotionally developed person capable of sharing human love. Love forms a strong soul, someone with an affirmed character, who feels accepted, loved, and lovable. Self worth towers in such a soul. Confidence exudes. By receiving love the capacity for easy and enjoyable giving is rooted in the soul.

Unfortunately, this mature love transference from the parents to a child is not successful for everybody. We all have unique pasts that make us who we are. Some receive love at one hundred percent, others receive a terribly deficient love at ten percent. Even worse, some grow up as victims hidden within their families. But I claim with certainty that the reception of quality love must take place if love is to be enjoyed and easily lavished upon others. Otherwise, giving love is an up hill battle. A foundation of love must take root in the soul to feel love and allow it to overflow. We can’t give what we don’t have.

Great human love begins with receiving. Somebody must love me unconditionally if I’m to emotionally develop. We live in a culture that tends to overlook this primacy of receiving love. I’m truly dependent on another person loving me to become all that I can be. Many people don’t like hearing that. My growth and development depends on someone else selflessly accepting me for who I am.

Of course, I can love simply by the choices of my free will. No denying that. But if I don’t have an affectionate foundation those acts of love may be meritorious, but felt little and enjoyed less. But don’t we want to feel the love we receive and give away? Don’t we want emotional satisfaction empowering our love? Only an angel is created to love with the mind and will alone. But God created us to love as human beings, with the beauty and enrichment of our emotional participation.

How to Receive Love

How can I change by the reception of the unconditional love I tragically missed in life? Better late than never. Though late, heart felt love is still possible. I start with somebody who authentically loves me without any condition. Don’t plug your ears when I say this, but that person is God. Don’t write this off immediately. It worked for me.

Simply do this. Set aside thirty minutes a day when there is silence and no cares. Turn off that darn cell phone! You need your own little oasis in life. Hide in a room, shut the door, shut your eyes and imagine a place that settles and calms you. Your imagined scene is your preference: the beach,

Receive Love
Receive Love

the park, the forest, whatever, wherever. Skip through your senses: see the colors, smell the environment, feel the breeze, touch the bench or trees or sand. Listen to the sounds of your imagined world. Let this experience linger. Enjoy it. Let it grow into a daily experience of peace. Perhaps it will become your special, momentary escape from a hectic or cruel life. Now, you’re ready to meet someone who loves you unconditionally.

After five or ten minutes of setting the scene, now imagine Jesus there. Perhaps he approaches you, greets you, hugs you, sits next to you. See how he’s dressed, how he conducts himself. Observe his face, his expressions, his eyes. Here’s the key point: experience his unconditional love for you. Just be there in his presence and let him express his love and total acceptance of you. Maybe he’ll squeeze you tightly or hold your hand, or caress your hair. Learn how to simply be in his affirming presence. Words are secondary here. But, of course, you can say whatever you want. You’ll see how Jesus listens understands, and accepts everything about you.

Don’t be afraid to love yourself, my friend. Commit yourself to this path. Stay the course. Try it and eventually you’ll see the growth of love within you. Your emotions will mature. Love will appear and make you happy. There will be difficulties and challenges as your journey ahead, but your life will surely change for the better.

I’m a Profoundly Different Person Now

When I was locked into my despairing way of life a kind person taught me these things. He went out of his way to show me some compassion. So I tried it, doubtful at first. But from the very first “meditation” it felt like I had struck gold. This kind man promised that after fifteen months of pursuing this path I’d feel so overwhelmed by love that I’d beg God to slow down and lessen the intensity. And this happened exactly as he said. A long story short: I’d discovered the feeling and power of love.

Can you experience this too? I’m telling you how to receive love. Just sixteen months ago I met a suicidal woman. She already had a plan how to do it. She couldn’t walk and was stuck in a house all day long. Everybody in the house only criticized her. She despaired and had nothing to live for. Mary cried an awful lot. Yes, this is her real name.

I went out of my way to befriend and encourage her. Then I taught her about this way of meditation and she’s been practicing it ever since. So what happened? Today, Mary’s the happiest person on earth. She truly feels loved. Receiving love is gradually expanding into giving love. I’ve been visiting her once a month for the past sixteen months and she’s a brand new person now.

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Andrew Lee Sullivan is the pioneer and foremost educator on Affirmation Meditation. He's a national, award-winning hospice counselor and grief recovery specialist. In 2007, as a Catholic priest and cult survivor, Sullivan became a Vatican whistle-blower. Today, Andrew is happily married and enjoys a second life under the Arizona sunshine with his wife and two young boys. His memoir is entitled: Vatican Intervention.

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