What is Love ? (A Post for Moms)

I hope you guys are in the mood today for a good discussion.  Danny and I discuss this topic all the time…because it’s something that seems to come up almost on a daily basis from readers, friends, family…and it’s all over blogs and social media.

We’d love to talk about what really is considered LOVE between a mother and child.

Too often, emotions and behaviors rooted in fear, guilt, anger inadequacy, hurt, and worry get mistaken for and even glorified as actions of love.  But we think love isn’t anywhere near these things. There is something better.

We recently saw a blog post by a very well-intentioned, heartfelt mother.  Her post actually nailed what we’re talking about.  She writes:

The anger of watching your child’s first rejection on the playground and the hurt of seeing them try and fail. That, too, is love.

The lonely ache of dropping off your boy at preschool for the first time. The feeling in your heart as you pack up and give away the baby girl clothes you won’t need anymore. That ache is love.
The tedium of a thousand tasks repeated day after day and the weary submission to a thousand more you’ll never get to. Both are born of love.
The moments of guilt and the feelings of inadequacy. The questions that plague you: “Am I doing enough? Am I doing this right?” All of those worries are love.
The desolation of losing a pregnancy and knowing that with it you’ve lost the chance to experience joy and pain with another child. That heartbreak, too, is love.
And then there’s the fear. You fear that all the glistening, golden threads that bind you to your babies are as fragile as a spider’s web that might be brushed aside at any moment, and you could lose everything. Even that fear is love.

Can you relate to this?  Do you think the emotions of fear, anger, guilt, hurt and worry are born of LOVE?

We think this is so important to consider as it is astonishing how many adults we meet or converse with who say they were raised by a mother in fear, anger, doubt, guilt, hurt, worry, inadequacy, etc., etc. and are STILL trying to grapple with self-worth and trust in themselves and in life.  And I can see why.  I think it’s safe to say that raising children while consumed with these emotions would not lead to the best environment to cultivate or teach children to have inner peace, confidence, empowerment, independence, and self-worth.

Here’s Danny’s response to the article:

For any moms out there, though I understand the fears and doubts and worries and guilt and anger written about in this post…I wouldn’t call it love.  Love is higher than that, it is better than that.

I am not trying to suggest that the author doesn’t love her children, I am sure that she does. But, when I think of love in its purest form, I think of just the opposite of what was described.

Let’s call anger what it is…anger. And let’s call fear what it is…fear. Feeling anger and fear and doubt and guilt may trigger in an individual the desire to move towards love, but that requires actual movement away from fear, doubt and bitterness…not an embracing of it. The only embracing I would do of those base emotions is to embrace them as teachers…they warn us when we are at a less optimal state of being, when our natural reactions have gotten the best of us, and provide for us an opportunity to choose a different state.

Actions that have their root in fear and anger and doubt are never as powerful or as fulfilling as actions rooted in love. Seeing your child rejected on the playground may first inspire anger, but if your next action comes from anger, you are likely to yell at the other child or scream at the mother of the child that rejected yours…or at least stew in some ugly anger and resentment and dysfunction for the next few minutes, hours, or days (and how can you be the best mother to your child or the best spouse if you are feeling those things…is that what any of us would call love?  Is that how you would want to teach your children to respond to negative experiences?) If, however, when you feel that anger and recognize it, and choose instead patience, compassion, calm and stillness of mind (and tongue), you then get to inhabit the decision making process that only love allows…which is not to jump in and scold some other child or parent…but to be just as patient with the child that rejected yours as you hope some other mother will be to your child if and when they do the same.

Anger and fear and doubt are not love. They never have been and never will be. And any action that has as its primary root this anger and guilt and doubt, will only cause more suffering, not less…which is exactly why I wouldn’t call it love to begin with.

And now, what do you think? What is love to you? Do you find it easy to distinguish between love and other less than desirable emotions? Do you feel inclined to defend those emotions as forms of love? Do you see in yourself or others a definition of love that perhaps might be missing the mark? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

(image from Kate Spade)


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  1. jenn July 2, 2013 at 9:40 am - Reply

    I am not a mother, but I see the equation of fear and love in mother-child relationships so often. I have never put my finger on what bothered me about it. But it's exactly what you're saying here. Love isn't fear/anger. Love is love, and it's so much better than that.

    I see it in romantic relationships too. People asked about why they love their partners say "I can't imagine life without them". And while this may be true, it's a fear thing too. The real reasons you love them are so much deeper and more awesome.

    • danny July 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm - Reply

      Yes, it pops up all the time in relationships too. One of the most common forms of it is "Well if I didn't love them so much, I wouldn't be so hurt and upset by what by spouse or BF/GF did or said." They use this to justify the hurtful things that they will do in return, even if it is as small as offering a cold shoulder for the evening.

      If an emotion is truly based in love, then it shouldn't result in more dysfunctional and fear-based or manipulation-based behavior.

  2. Great post! I absolutely agree with you!

    Parenting out of fear creates tension and seperation in our relationships with our kids, whereas unconditional love, respect and trust bring us closer.

    In saying that, It can be a challenge at times, and something that I continuously work on.

    • danny July 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm - Reply

      And I know that however much I believe what I've written above, it will be a challenge for me too when the time comes to be a parent.

      But that is what life is all about, taking on these challenges and becoming a person motivated by love in all aspects of life. Thanks for being one of many who try to do the hard work.

  3. Sarah July 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Love this. Such an important topic that's not often discussed. Love for me is missing my daughter while she sleeps, not because I fear she isn't breathing or worry for her safety, but because I miss her sweet spirit that seems to dance around me and lift my soul. Love is recognizing that anger and fear are real aspects of motherhood, but that in order to truly live you have to look past those emotions and just be. Be in the moment with your husband, your children, life in the moment and love.

    • danny July 2, 2013 at 12:56 pm - Reply

      Great comment!

      "Love is recognizing that anger and fear are real aspects of motherhood, but that in order to truly live you have to look past those emotions and just be."


  4. Charlotte | Charlotte's Web July 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    I think it is important to recognise that many emotions are heightened due to love, but are not love themselves. But then again, if the emotion wouldn't have been there had it not been routed in love, then perhaps it is love afterall. Just not the fairy tale kind.

  5. Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    I think what you are trying to say is that in parenting–like everything else–we need to educate our emotions so that we learn to react well to all the situations we encounter. That as we practice true love, we'll get better at it, and that it will bring about the best results in our relationships, particularly with our children.

    However, to use the term you applied to the author of the blog post you quote, I think you are "well intentioned" with your evaluation of the mother's blog post. I think you may be misconstruing what she is saying. For example, she didn't say, "when you yell at the child who hurt yours at the playground, that is love." She just acknowledged that a parent hurts when a child hurts, just like in all relationships of love. Even Jesus Christ cried for his followers. I don't think the mother in the blog post was advocating embracing those "negative" emotions as love, I think she was just acknowledging that they happen. I think it's probably just semantics, and what you are trying to say is that you can't let anger, fear, and guilt rule your relationships. But it almost sounds like you are suggesting that to be the best kind of mother, you won't have emotional reactions to situations. I think that is dangerous to suggest because it will absolutely add to a mother's guilt if she has to feel bad for having emotions over what happens to her children.

    Being a mother is absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done. I thought I was a calm, almost-never-ruffled type person before being a parent. But it is very hard, and there are so many things out of your control, that it is a furnace of testing when it comes to reacting optimally in all situations. To be completely open, I've visited with a counselor (who is also a mother) a few times about this. I told her that one of my goals of counseling was to "stop becoming frustrated. (and by this I meant to stop feeling anger, hurt, guilt, inadequacy)" She told me immediately that that expectation was not something achievable. She did say though that how you react to feelings of frustration–that is what you can learn to change. From what I've read, I think that is a major theme of your blog, so perhaps we're saying the same thing in a different way.

    And as a side note, I believe our children can learn when we make mistakes. If they see us apologize or talk through things after something doesn't go right. That is learning too.

    • danny July 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anon.

      My original response included something similar to what you wrote (a recognition that perhaps some of it is semantics and the way we choose to speak about love). So I truly appreciate your comment and your reflections.

      I also loved this: "She told me immediately that that expectation was not something achievable. She did say though that how you react to feelings of frustration–that is what you can learn to change."

      If it wasn't stated clearly above, I will state add here below. I imagine there will be all sorts emotions that will come to me as a parent, and those will include anger, and fear, and frustration, and every thing else.

      Having those feelings is not the problem. We all have them, we all will. It is, like your friend said, how you react to those emotions. Will you let your reactions spring forth from the anger and fear that you feel? The author may not have been saying we should embrace the negative emotions as love, but they did equate them with love.

      I have another post I'm working on that discusses the four words the greek language has for different types of Love…whereas we only have the word Love and use adjectives to describe the type we are talking about. One of words they use for love is clearly superior to all the others, and makes each of the others more powerful. Hopefully when I finish that, it will add some additional clarity to what I was trying to address in this post.

  6. jessica renae July 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    i've been really grappling with these ideas the last few days. i went back and read a few of your posts that introduce the ideas and talk about how to implement them. as someone who has healed from severe trauma, a big step in my healing and overcoming shame was to accept the emotions i was experiencing – letting myself feel anger, hurt and fear instead of burying the emotions and numbing. i can tell the principles you're talking about are TRUE, i can FEEL that! but trying to apply them is throwing me for a bit of a loop. my husband and i both feel like when we try to pursue virtues and choose a different experience that we end up stuffing the emotions down and covering them up with something fake. like i said, these principles applied to ANY relationship, in a marriage, parenting, friends… i can tell they are true, but struggling with the practice. any suggestions?? i'd love to see a post about HOW to choose other emotions. or maybe you already have one??

    • Amanda July 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm - Reply

      This is how I've been taught: Feel the emotion, acknowledge it, listen to why it's there, look at why it came up. Clean up and express what you need to if another person was involved. And when you're ready to choose something different, you will. It's all a choice. Processing through, and choosing something different will get faster and faster the more you practice it. It's not about ignoring, stuffing, or resisting the anger/fear/wallowing that shows up, that is fake. It's about moving through it quicker to the point where those emotions only take a few minutes to process rather than days/months/years.

    • mara July 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm - Reply

      Amanda, love, love, love what you said here. I feel the exact same way. And you said it so perfectly and clearly. thank you!

    • Anonymous July 8, 2013 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      I've found that taking responsibility for the emotions is huge. Just what Amanda said feel the emotion, acknowledge it, listen to why it's there, clean up and express. It's the expressing we as a society seem to be confused about. Don't 'dump' those emotions into someone else, express that emotion to your higher power, out in nature, in your car while you're driving. Leaving it inside you will only cause it to be bottled up and ready to explode, so get it out just be responsible where you're getting it out, don't 'dump' it on others. And then like you say pursue those virtues!!!

  7. Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Hmm, just wondering why you specifically focus on a mother's love here! Wouldn't the same apply to fathers and other caregivers? In the media there's so much scrutiny of motherhood – so much pressure on mothers to act and feel the "right" way. I truly respect your message here, just thinking it goes beyond motherhood.

    • mara July 2, 2013 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      Yes, yes, this message applies to everyone. 🙂 In fact, every post we write here usually applies to everyone, but it keeps things more interesting and hopefully more applicable to show how a message of love can be applied to many different circumstances in life. Today, we focused on motherhood…and truthfully, it is because we have personally seen that feelings of fear/doubt/worry/guilt/inadequacy, etc. seem to be very rampant among mothers…and are often even glorified or justified as a badge of love. So we thought it was worthwhile to share a different perspective.

  8. Jenny D. July 2, 2013 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    First of all, great post! A couple years ago I would have agreed whole heartedly with the mother's comments, that anger, fear, doubt, being overwhelmed and discouraged by our motherly duties are all somehow triggered by love. Every summer I have to send my kids to visit their dad and this stirs up so many difficult emotions such as anger, fragility, fear, anguish, discouragement, stress and guess what? I'm the exact opposite of the kind of mother I want to be in the week or two before they leave because these emotions heighten as the "transfer day" gets closer. I'm impatient and cold, rather than joyful and loving and as soon as they are gone I feel so bad that I let those emotions overrule my true desires. Maybe I would have agreed with that mother solely to justify my behavior. So now, after a lot of soul work, I can see those emotions for what they are, like you said. Sometimes I know when they are coming and can anticipate it, while at other times it takes a more conscious effort to be fully present and aware. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I succeed. The key is that when I fail, I don't beat myself up and feel guilty, I address it as needed and move on. I gave a talk in church last week that ties into this and I channeled you both big time. I'll have to send it to you. Thanks again for the post and the reminder that no matter who we are and what relationships we are in, that rising above base emotions allows us to really feel and give love.

  9. Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    I believe the original post is much more rooted in honest reality than your response. Your use of the phrase "well-intentioned" was a red flag for me, as if you were saying to the original blogger, "Nice try, but here's how it really works…" It's important to remember that everyone is different – every family is different, and every parent-child relationship is different. One of the very toughest things in my experience as a parent has been to learn how to reject comparing myself and my relationship with my child with other parents and their relationships with their children. I doubt it was your intention, but this post does more to encourage comparison than it does to encourage healthy relationships.

    • Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 3:44 pm - Reply

      This. I liked what Danny had to say, but he was exaggerating the author's point to make his. Though not intended, his response felt judgmental and lacking in LOVE. I'd have preferred that he made his point without directly countering the author or singling out motherhood.

      I'm a fan of positive thinking, but I find followers can often stray into pompous territory. They know to keep their emotions in check in terms of their own life, but their ego about the topic often trumps humility.

      I've seen glimmers of it here, which is always a bummer, because I like this blog. But there are definitely moments when it does not practice what it preaches.

    • Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      Couldn't agree more! I don't think Danny meant to come off this way but he certainly did. Besides, I truly believe that love is very closely related, if not mixed with empathy. Just as Christ cried when Lazerus died, mothers ache when their children hurt, they fear when they see them make the wrong decisions and they triumph in their success. It's all apart of love. No anger is not manifested of love, but empathy is. I think you need to be careful in taking your view point to far. I completely respect and love the way you guys face trial and adversity, however there is a whole spectrum of human emotion for a reason. We can't be afraid to truly feel.

    • danny July 2, 2013 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      I am grateful for both of your comments. Anon 1 – certainly not what either of us intended, but I can see how sometimes things can seem like that. I don't want people to compare and feel guilt and all that kind of stuff…but I do want them to be aware. If we aren't aware of effect of certain emotions, we may never know what they are doing to us and never desire to choose otherwise.

      Anon 2 – I mentioned above in another comment that there are some things that were cut out of my reply for the sake of brevity. Perhaps it would have been better if they were left in. One of those things included the sentiment that I have no doubt that this woman loves her children, and that much of what she does is guided by honest and true love. I also don't believe that all of the things that she mentioned are something I would disagree with, in fact some of those are truly examples of love (the tedium of a thousand tasks…etc.) We didn't cite the original post specifically because we didn't want to make it about the author at all, but about the concepts she was putting forth.

      Where I disagree is with the things I specifically mentioned. Fear and anger are not love. The post was actually titled "even that fear is love." I wasn't trying to exaggerate anything.

      That being said, I have no doubt there is always a better way that I could have written this. Again, I appreciate your insight, and will take your comments as a reminder to try to be better.

    • Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 3:10 am - Reply

      Finally, people who disagree. Normally I enjoy this blog, but these remarks are off base. No offense, Mara and Danny, but until you are a parent, you just can't understand the way this mother feels. Yes, fear and anger are not love, but what the mother feels is heightened because of the love she feels for her child – which is unlike any other kind of love. Also, it is healthy for children to see how adukts handle many different kinds of emotions, because everything is not roses all day every day, even with the best of intentions. Too often these days, we try shield children from the reality of life, and that is why children struggle with reality as adults.

    • danny July 3, 2013 at 3:24 am - Reply

      No offense taken. And my apologies if this post didn't sit well with you.

      There are those who are mothers who have commented here today who express the same sentiments I was trying to, but most likely did a better job. Feel free to ignore my post if you desire, whether because of its content or delivery, or simply because I am not a parent myself. But do please read the following comments from people who said everything I could hope to say on the subject and more.

      Jenny D at 10:35 am
      Anon at 10:44 am
      Miggy at 10:51 am

      They are all mothers.

    • Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      Anon 2 here again. Thanks for your further insights, Danny, and for taking criticism kindly. That's not easy.

      I still stand by my comment. This post was highly inappropriate. Your thoughts were great, but tying them to a someone else's post was totally unnecessary. You could have vaguely referenced reading something that suggested fear or anger was love, but instead you linked and quoted to this poor woman's post. A woman who is talking about bringing her pre-term twins home from the hospital for the first time! I'm pretty sure when she sees a trackback to this post, she will burst into tears to read your "well-intentioned" critique of her intimate, spiritual thoughts. Not cool!

      I'm trying to be calm, because I know you are both good people trying to spread a beautiful message, but I feel someone needs to stand up for this woman. This would be akin to someone taking Mara's post about your failed IVF and condemning it point by point

      Mistakes happen. We all use bad judgment. But I do think it would be appropriate to remove the link and quotes to this woman's post, unless you have her express permission. This wasn't a NYT op-ed you are referencing; this was someone's special thoughts at a critical time.

    • Melody July 4, 2013 at 12:59 am - Reply


    • Katie July 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      I agree with Anon 2. Did you ask her permission to reprint her words here?

  10. Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    This is a great topic that require us all to think… and examine ourselves. I agree with you.. that love is not fear, anger, doubt… of course these are all connected in any situation.. and amplified with experiences of motherhood/fatherhood… because we are the stewards over our children. I am a young mother of many little ones.. and it requires so much emotional balance… I often don't do very well. BUT… I am grateful when I can see the difference when parenting with love as my motivator… rather than fear. In 100% of these situations… I am parenting with help from above. I have literally prayed right before dealing with a difficult situation…(not a like a tantrum…but a real situation where choice were made that would make me fearful or angry at my child) and I can say that is it only when we "practice the virtue intentionally" and with the Lord's help that love can override and be the healing balm. It is NOT easy.. but possible. And it is good to acknowledge.. like you have here… that fear and anger… although are all emotions we will feel… and it is ok… can not be the ruling emotion when parenting. I think it takes a lot of practice and thought… or meditation… to be able to override natural tendencies. I am looking forward to your post of the Greek words for different types of love.. different levels… I can see how that would be helpful to me.

    Obviously… we are all human, and flawed… and to have the responsibility to raise and teach another human is a task that brings out all our weaknesses… but also all our strengths. In my parenting… I like seeing where fear and anger and guilt come in… because I can quickly validate it.. but then put is aside and practice what I am trying to be. A loving, understanding, nonjudgemental mother. Love this post. And today… I am going to practice being more like this.

  11. Miggy July 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm - Reply


    Very insightful and so much food for thought. And I'm so glad you clarified some of your thoughts with Anon. I have to admit to being a big worrier. I fear a lot of things for my children and I recognize that it's not good. I am working on it. When I was younger I was pretty terrified of sharks. I didn't live near the ocean, but since I loved watching Jaws just a little too much I wouldn't even go in lakes because my imagination could all too easily conjure a shark breaking through the water and eating me alive. As I got older I was able to break through this fear because it was flat out ridiculous and untrue. The problem with SO many of my fears now is that they DO happen. They have happened to people I know and love. And if it can happen to them, well then it could happen to me. Again, not a justification for allowing fears such a prominent place in my mind and heart, but the fact that these fears are real possibilities is part of the hurdle for me. I agree with you–fear is fear and it is not love. But I also know if I didn't love my family so much, I wouldn't fear these things.

    That being said, one thing I am good at and decided a while ago was how I was going to deal with people and their interaction with my second daughter. As you know, my daughter has very obvious physical differences–a missing arm and other limb differences. The good news is most people are amazing, kind and gracious. People love her and because she is so recognizable she seems to have friends wherever we go. However, children are always and will always be a challenge. The stares, the pointing, the innocent yet sometimes hurtful comments and the not-so-innocent comments–it can all be very difficult to deal with, especially now that my daughter is 3 and knows what other kids are saying and why. My heart has hurt many times as I've seen her heart hurt–children telling her they don't want to be her friend, or even one girl screaming, crying and pointing saying my daughter was scaring her. It is and will continue to be HARD.

    It has often felt like an impossible situation. I know small children are innocent and not yet responsible for their honest yet hurtful words and actions, BUT their innocence does not take away the actual pain they sometimes cause my daughter and our family. My choices are that I could either hate every toddler and pre-schooler out there (definitely the hardest demographic) OR I could choose grace, understanding and patience. I choose the latter. Grace, in all it's many definitions, is the only way to face the impossible. So I smile and try to educate them about our daughter and help them understand that she is much more alike than different. That being said, there have been times I have told kids they're being rude and they need to go away. And there have been even been a few times that I've wanted to punch a small child in the face and tell them to shut up–but of course I don't. I have always wanted to model appropriate responses for my daughter and positive ways for her to deal with these challenges, BUT there are times when I have felt the need to protect her feelings more than the feelings of a strangers child… anyway, I could talk about this forever.

    Point is, I agree with you. When making a direct choice about my reactions to our daughter and the people she would come in contact with I knew the only way we could do this was to have our choice rooted in virtues of love, patience and grace rather than anger and frustration. It's the only way.

  12. Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    I just became a brand new mom a little over two weeks ago, and being a new mom i feel a lot of these emotions, however i do my best to take a deep breath if a negative emotion does start to creep into my mind, and instead of reacting negatively, i remind myself how precious those 2 am feedings are, how precious it is for my daughter to cry just so ill snuggle her, how sweet it is that the house is a mess because im doing what i can to take care of and love my precious baby. To me, love and faith are pretty close, and we all know that fear is opposite of faith, and anger is the opposite of love. Can anger arise from love? Sure, but only because the anger we feel "out pf love" is because things arent happening how we imagined them in our minds. I love my daughter amd would do anything i could for her. The other day she had her two week appt and she had to get her pku done, and i sat there and her in my arms and cried while she screamed in pain. It was one kf thr hardest things i ever had to do, and i wanted to be angry with the nurse for hurting my baby, but i knew it was for her own good. So i just sat and consoled her and told her how much i loved her. It was all o could do, but it made me put into perspective a lot. Personally i.want my daughter to have the best life possible and the best self esteem and i don't want to burden her by carrying to many negative emotions into or daily lives. I feel likeif I'm going to be the best patent i need to let go of the life i imagind, embrace the life i have, and remember to live and love on faith in my abilities as a woman, wife, and mother.

  13. Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    I think really one can infer from the original article that after a mother feels anger, she gets it together and handles the situation correctly, after the loneliness a mother feels joy in seeing her child grow, after feeling inadequacy and guilt a mother sees her child doing an act of kindness and is reminded she is doing it right, after sadness comes the hope that new & different things are to come, and after the fear a mother can stand back and see she has accomplished a great masterpiece that all came FROM LOVE!

  14. megan July 2, 2013 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    When I held my newborn daughter the first time, I was surprised by my emotions. I wasn't surprised by the overwhelming love I felt, though its magnitude was quite something, but rather the twinge of pain that accompanied it. I've felt that same small twinge each time I feel the love, and I've tried to understand it. Maybe it comes from knowing that my stewardship over her is temporary and one day this amazing daily bond we share will be lessened as she grows more independent. All I know is, loving my husband is bliss. But when I snuggle my now toddler, kiss her head, and feel my heart swell with more love than I realized it could hold, the pain is also present. To me they're inseparable. I'm not sure what it all means, I've just come to accept that it is what it is.

  15. Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 3:27 am - Reply

    I see Danny's response to the blog post as a valid caution. There are many parents who, although well-intentioned, in the chaos of daily life of raising children, do let their fear rule and justify it by calling it love. As the child gets older, this fear can manifest itself in ways that cripple emotional growth and maturation. Another example of this is parents who financially support grown children well into adulthood–they think they are doing this out of "love" for their children, when really it is rooted in a need for control or in the fear that the child may fail on their own.

  16. Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 3:32 am - Reply

    Love is not dropping your autistic child off on someone's doorstep even though you are really tempted to because you are so tired of being sworn and yelled at. Or is it guilt that keeps one from doing such a thing? humbling topic this is. What is love?
    Really, this sounds so negative but it's the reality of this lovely opportunity to learn and grow that we call life. Children do not always inspire feelings of tenderness and sweetness. They sometimes take us to our breaking point and beyond. And then the question becomes one of loving ourselves when even we feel we are not loving enough for these beautiful spirits.

    • danny July 3, 2013 at 3:55 am - Reply

      Humbling topic indeed. Life will throw a thousand things at us, and though each person's unique challenges are going to be different than anothers…each challenge offers us a chance to love and grow.

      I also really liked you last sentence. It is so easy to get down on ourselves when we have felt like we failed at living up to our expectations or ideals. The truth is, if we hope to have patience and calm and love with others, we NEED to have it for ourselves as well. Because tomorrow we'll wake up and have to face yet another challenge (sometimes the same one as yesterday) and try all over again to find some path of peace and growth and experience some form of love.

      Thanks for writing. This can be pretty heavy stuff sometimes, I appreciate your honesty.

    • shiloh donkin July 8, 2013 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anon and Danny, great thoughts. I struggle with this a lot and its great to hear that I am not alone, that it can be overcome, and each day is a new day to try again. Motherhood is truly the hardest journey I have ever embarked on (and Andy, my husband, would say fatherhood has been his hardest journey as well). It really is a learning process, teaching ourselves and our children how to deal with negative emotions, because they are very much a part of life and letting them, as well as ourselves, know that it is a choice. We can stew in the negative, or recognize it for what it is and choose a happier more fulfilling path.

  17. avonlea_ann July 3, 2013 at 3:38 am - Reply

    I didn't have time to read other comments but here are my thoughts on this: I think for every emotion, thought, action… there is an equal and opposite emotion. Which is why we can love our spouse and children with such feeling we feel like it will burst inside us. And we can also be so mad at them we want to scream, pull our hair out and quit! But yes, I think when we truly love someone and want to show it we overcome those feelings of anger and guilt and show more love instead. It's not easy but it makes us stronger and better as a parent, spouse, friend. Thanks for the thoughts. 🙂

  18. Denise July 3, 2013 at 4:24 am - Reply

    Dear Danny and Mara, I didn't read the link or much of what the other writer wrote, but only what reasonates with me. Yes, parenting and actions with roots from fear will only result in more suffering. This I know for a fact.

    When my older daughter Jennifer wanted to spend two years studying and volunteering in Humanitarian projects in Israel, my husband and I were filled with fear as alot of bombings were going on at that time. Our immediate reaction was to not allow this. But we decided to not have fear rule her life (and ours) and gave her our blessings. We focused on her joy of living her life with passion and meaning and loved this in her and her. This was her golden moment and I'm glad I didn't screw it up. But I don't deserve a pat on the back, yet. As you know she died a couple of years later in her apartment in Brooklyn, only a few blocks from the hospital.

    I learned that I have no control over my children's safety. But then I unlearned it, only to learn it again. (boy we humans are a piece of work) My daughter Shayna, now without a sibling, got very sick a couple of years later. And I was overcome with Fear, resulting in making some bad decisions. I listened to "experts" and she was treated with Zoloft. (Please note my husband and I did not make this decision without the advice of two hospitals and numerous experts) Shayna became suicidal, she was 14 at the time and should never have been prescribed that medicine. She was put on other medications making her physically and mentally worse and was hospitalized. My mind was full of fear and fear of burying another daughter. And that left no room in my mind for anything else.

    With the grace of GOD I was literally knocked to my senses – at the library a book fell on my head and it was entitled Medication Madness by Peter Breggin. This book saved her life, I found another therapist who worked with her without meds for her OCD. Shayna may fight this her entire life and it has taken me 4 years to be at peace with this. I had tried millions of things to cure her, and she only suffered more. Again I learn I have no control in keeping my children safe and alive. When fear enters my mind, I remember that I have no use for it and I must turn to the only truth.

    I only know one thing which I hold on to: Love and Faith in God to give me Peace when the going gets tough. I literally hold on to this on a necklace with three rings each declaring this – Love – Faith – Peace, with love, Denise P.S. I only commented on your last few sentences that I had time to read so I hope my comment makes sense.

    • danny July 3, 2013 at 4:47 am - Reply

      Denise, your comment is right on the money, as it always is. Thank you for the wisdom and insight you offer. Know that we love you, and we are grateful for your friendship, even if we only know you through this blog. Peace be unto you as well.

  19. Diane July 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this post! My first response was a bit reflexive because the author of the original so nicely pointed to parenting "trigger" moments. Most parents will recognize (and remember viscerally) the experiences she describes. But I think you are right to refuse the conflation of fear, anger, guilt, inadequacy with love. And I think "fear" may be the author of most of the other (all of the other) emotions for me. When I see my child misbehave towards another child on the playground, I fear that others will see me as a bad parent; that my child will grow up missing social cues or be someone who hurts others; that I am not skilled enough to curb her antisocial tendencies. As the parent of older teens, I can say that parenting doesn't get easier, and the magnitude of the responsibilities of parenting become more impressive. My fear for my kids' safety, their spiritual development, their social capacity/standing only increases as my ability to control their surroundings diminishes. As I am trying to build more confidence and improve my behavior and relationships, over and over "fear" catches my heels or trips me up and I respond to the fear rather than to the actual situation. This post puts another lens on my behavior, and I have something to mull this morning. Thanks.

  20. Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    This is a great post, great message. And it does apply to fathers! Words are tricky, but I think you did a good job.

    There is something so pure and infinite in a child's love that connects us directly to God… the knowledge that innocence will be lost, that children will grow up, make mistakes, become independent can cause a lot of anxiety. But if we recognize the aching feeling of love as a sign of our longing for the divine, for eternal life and perfect Love, we can choose to savour this present glimpse of infinity and be grateful for it without worrying for the future. Also, our children do not belong to us… I really love the quote from the poet Khalil Gibran in The Prophet, he says:

    "You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
    For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."

    P.S. This post reminded me of a previous post by Mara, which I love for its honesty, as she applies the idea of this post in a different area of life: http://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2012/05/making-peace-with-one-of-my-fears.html

  21. Lisa Johnson July 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    I read this post (listed below) today about Vashti & Esther and it immediately made me think of your post. Great stuff! 🙂


  22. Brooke July 3, 2013 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    You and Danny are so unbelievably good at teaching about emotions and how to deal with them. This is something I know so many of us can benefit from, especially myself. I'm so grateful for your wise insight!

  23. Miggy July 4, 2013 at 2:57 am - Reply

    So I was thinking about this again last night and realized I may have been too quick with my initial response.

    I have always been bothered by the whole idea that the opposite of faith is fear, or where there is fear there is no faith. I've never really agreed with that and but I wasn't really sure why. It's a simplistic platitude we like to throw around and it doesn't sit well with me. Just like when people talk about forgiveness at church and always throw in the story of Jesus telling the woman who was found in adultery to "go and sin no more." Really? If I went and told my Bishop I was having an adulterous relationship is that all he'd say? That story is about a lot of things, but an overly simplistic version of repentance and forgiveness is not the main point. SO, like love, I think there are many different versions and meanings of the word fear. We have to be careful when we throw around the word and it can really mean so many different things to different people. Even the scriptures talk about the fear of God as a good and positive thing right? But it's a very different fear from what I believe you're talking about here.

    As I was thinking of some of my most fearful moments of motherhood I realized they weren't times I was sitting around and imagining all the horrible scenarios out there (As I sometimes do. Which I believe is among the worst manifestations of fear) it has been in the midst of actual life threatening situations. Like the time my 2 year old ran out between two parked cars on a NYC street. I felt real, panic-inducing, heart racing FEAR and as I ran out after her–not knowing if there was or was not a car coming–I know it was that fear mingled with love that spurred me to act so quickly without any hesitation or thought for my own safety. I can honestly say my fear was definitely rooted in love. As was her first (of only a few) spanking, while yelling through shaky tears to never do that again. Yeah, that was love.

    I agree that it's what we do with our emotions that is the really important thing, but I can't say I 100% agree that fear and anger can have no place in love. At the very least, I don't always see them as emotions that are always best to avoid. At the end of one particularly destructive relationship I was trying very earnestly to move on and to forgive very, very quickly when a friend reminded me that sometimes anger can be a good emotion in that it can protect us from letting a person hurt us again and again, and if we try to rush too quickly to forgiveness we may miss an important step in self preservation. Perhaps you disagree, but it makes sense to me. We see anger used in many scriptural accounts–even Jesus whipping the moneychangers in the Temple, we are even told to rebuke at times with sharpness, afterward showing an increase in love. To me, there seems to be a connection. Not that my human expressions of anger are on the same page as the Saviors, BUT I am human. Additionally, there are times that as a mom, I need to and will advocate for my children with a little sharpness and even anger in my soul, especially if it is for their safety and protection. To me this is very, very different than being a mom who is constantly instilling fear, guilt, anger, doubt, worry etc in her children for the sake of fear, guilt, anger, doubt and worry.

    Our end actions and how we choose to react to situations will always speak the loudest, but I don't think you can or should completely dismiss the emotions of fear and anger as always being something negative and something that will only do us and others harm. Perhaps these examples are more extreme than you were thinking, but I just wanted to throw it out there.

    • danny July 9, 2013 at 5:26 am - Reply

      You may or may not come back to read this, it's been a few days, but I thought you made some interesting comments that I wanted to respond to.

      I can agree with you that there can be different meanings of the word fear. If I were to redefine fear in the context of the example you used, I would say that we should not "fear" God, but we should respect, reverence, awe, and humble ourselves before him. Those can actually be quite loving things. If one really does have fear of God, I can only imagine He'd regret that they have the wrong idea of Him and wish they understood just how much he does love.

      As for life and death scenarios…I wouldn't categorize that kind of fear as the kind of fear that the author of the post was discussing, nor what I was arguing against. That is an instinctual need for survival and protection, and though terror may well have filled your body, love and courage had you running out there to protect your daughter.

      As for fear and anger having no place in love? I will say that to me the scripture in 1 John 4:18 "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." I would have once agreed that anger and fear are part of love…until moments in my life called on me to specifically get rid of all the anger that was inside of me, and all the fear for what the future might hold….and let all that go and just love. When I started doing that, my life changed. That version of love was so much more powerful to me than any thing else I had previously felt, and so much more personally rewarding, that I have no choice but to speak about Love the way I did in this post.

      As for the Savior – read again those passages and show me which words say that he was angry? I know how you feel, because I always thought they were in there too…but they are not. What you are thinking of is the way movies have depicted it…not the way it was written. What he was doing was cleansing a place he deemed holy and worthy of better, a place that was diminished and demeaned by the moneychangers and their activities. Perhaps we should be viewing our own body, which is a temple, in the same way….perhaps we should methodically be turning over the tables of that which would pollute our experience of Perfect Love, perhaps we should be seeking out and finding the fear and anger that has built a home inside of us and use a whip if we have to to cleanse our vessel, so that the temple, which is our body and our mind, can be full of His spirit…and not the spirit of another that is less desirable.

      What if instead of acting in anger on behalf of your children, you acted in boldness for what is right and good, and did it in a spirit of love. Why does anger need to be present? Can we not stand for truth and the protection of the innocent without anger?

      My guess is you do that often (stand with boldness and for truth). Perhaps you are used to calling it anger, when it is not. Or perhaps the anger is just an unconscious reality of many of your interactions…I think that is often true for all of us. It has been for me too.

      The goal is to bring more Love into our lives, and to learn to dismiss any and everything that would diminish the power of that love. The goal is to Love more consciously. My experience is that when you do so, you invite the joy of heaven itself to join you.

  24. Sage July 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    This reminds me of feelings I tried to capture in this post.


  25. Anonymous July 5, 2013 at 6:31 am - Reply

    If only I could write my thoughts better in English but because it isn't my native language I just want to say.

    Love is a very positive emotion on which we can build our relationships whether it is to our spouses, children, neighbours etc. But still love isn't the only emotion which we meet and we have to cope with daily in our lives. Because our kids must learn to act with other feelings than love too it isn't necessarily harmful to see those feelings on their parents faces and in their parents actions. It's actually really educating for kids to realize their parents fear also, get angry and so on because parents are human also. How could children understand those feelings when growing up if their parents have only rounded them with the feeling of love and pushed the other human feelings aside? Making the world (or emotions) black and white isn't the way I see things…grey is also a good colour and by that I mean that actions may be based on love eventhough you would show other emotions that love when acting.

    Your blog is about love and I really really like to read your blog but I myself don't want to "want" pure love so much that it makes me to forget or push aside all the other parts of being human.

    Thank you for you great blog and deep thoughts about love, life and so on and thanks for Miggy who wrote things similarly as I view them on her last comment "Our end actions and how we choose to react to situations will always speak the loudest, but I don't think you can or should completely dismiss the emotions of fear and anger as always being something negative and something that will only do us and others harm."

    I wish you a really nice summer and best of luck with your future with this blog and in life in general.


  26. Nate July 5, 2013 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    I don't have kids, so I can't relate to this specific example, but I can relate to other feelings being mistaken for love… the most common of which (in romantic relationships) seems to be obsession. It seems to me that obsession over a person that one just can't let go of – that they absolutely can't live without – is heralded as nobel and admirable in most movies and TV shows.

    Obsession, however, is so contradictory to what True Love really is. Love is selfless. Love is a desire for another's happiness. Obsession on the other hand, is a selfish need for approval, acceptance, and validation. It's unhealthy, and shows a lack of love for self, and respect for the agency of others.

    It's amazing how simple Love really is… and how we are constantly attempting to re-define it. When we complicate the recipe of Love, we just dilute it or contaminate it and it loses its potency.

    Thanks for writing this post. I think it's such an important issue right now that so many of us have lost sight of. Love is not anything else but love.

    • shiloh donkin July 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      Nate, I totally agree. Relationships based on obsession are not love and will not last unless the obsession can be replaced with the selfless qualities indicative of real love. This post is very applicable to all relationships, not just mother and child, thanks for pointing that out.

  27. Anonymous July 8, 2013 at 4:32 am - Reply

    I am a big fan and admire you both deeply but your response Danny didnt sit well with me. Maybe I misunderstood but it comes off to me as very self righteous and that you would parent a whole lot better than the rest of us. Just sayin

    • danny July 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks for commenting Anon. I'm sorry if it came off that way, it wasn't my intent nor my belief.

      The point of the post was not to say that I would be a better parent than anybody…I have fear and anger and doubt and whatever else come up upon me just like anybody else does. And I'm sure when it comes to children, I'll be confronted with a whole new set of fears and anxieties I never imagined.

      But the point is, I won't call those fears Love. I'm sure I'll have them, I know I will struggle. We all do. I am no different. But I'm not going to elevate those fears to a place of honor so that it can have free reign in my life and over my family.

      I will have them, but hope to seek to learn from them instead of submit to them. That is something we are all called upon to do, whether parents or not.

  28. Anonymous July 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Please stop unintentionally spreading sexism with your posts!! You do this often. This post should be about PARENTHOOD/PARENTING, not about MOTHERHOOD/MOTHERING. Nothing that you wrote is specific to the mother-child relationship. It's about the parent-child relationship. Please stop subtly promoting the message that women should be primary caretakers and that fathers/men are secondary. My father instilled just as many of these negative emotions in me as my mother did. Men need this message just as much as women do.

    It's particularly odd and off-putting to have a man and future father (Danny) preaching about this just to women. Just make it to all parents, which is more inclusive, makes Danny a more logical messenger, and doesn't subtly promote sexist values.

    Otherwise, I certainly agree with all the other points in the blog post.

    • shiloh donkin July 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      I don't think Danny is "spreading sexism" as you said. The article they read was about a mother and her children. They happened to address it to mothers because of this particular article. Anyone reading this can and should take this as a way to improve, no matter the sex, no matter the relationship (teacher/child, father/child, even husband/wife, friends, partners, etc). In any relationship, if actions spring from fear or anger and never transition to acting out of love, will have some level of issues. I think (and know) Danny was just using the example of a mother and child to illustrate this issue, not to make it exclusive to mothers, or to indicate that all this responsibility falls to mothers or that no other person plays a role in this type of scenario. It was just an example, not the spreading of sexism (which is the last thing Danny is trying to do). Also, there is nothing wrong with addressing a specific group and not the whole. Somewhere there is a mother that may want to hear this very thing to help her make the changes she so eagerly wants to make. But any father who desires to do better as a father (or any friend, any teacher, any partner, etc) can read this and apply it to himself and realize his very real impact in the lives of his children (or merely the people around him), for good or for bad.

  29. Anonymous July 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    This is an interesting post, one I have never thought of, and appreciate. I think the part that seems self-righteous in this post is that you pointed out a blogger in specific, and it happens to be a blogger who you are not in her shoes. Something like this could still be talked about in vague to get the meaning across. Otherwise, I believe you are right: those feelings are normal and okay sometimes, but not love. That's great.

  30. Anonymous July 8, 2013 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    One more thing, I took a parenting class in college, and the professor kept using bad examples of people he knew, or people in the class would do the same. I remember the professor wanted to talk about "Enmeshment" and a girl told about her neighbor whose family was so enmeshed the daughter went to go to girl's camp, and the whole family waved her off, and they all bawled so the girl decided to stay anyway. The professor thought this was an interesting story and asked her if she could tell this story on video for a project he was doing. I remember always feeling like that class was a little gossippy. But it's good to learn from others' mistakes and others' successes, so I don't know how to go about this. Even this, that I am typing, is about a real situation, real people. But I am not putting the name of that professor on here. He didn't give names, either, so I don't know how he would have taught the class w/o these examples.

  31. Shauntel July 8, 2013 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    So I realize I'm later to the game, but I went on a little vacation and read this just before leaving, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Because when I read the portion you quoted, it resonated deeply in my soul. Then when you disagreed so sharply, I had to reconcile the whole thing in my mind.

    And I'm sure something like this has already been said, but I think it mostly boils down to semantics. I don't think the original writer means that love EQUALS fear or anxiety. I believe that what the original writer might mean is love MAGNIFIES fear and anxiety.

    The love I have for my babies is unlike the love I have for my spouse, who makes me whole, or my parents or siblings, who made me me. The love I have for my babies comes from a deeper, different place. The love I have for them literally came out of me. The love I have for them is the kind of love that makes the scary things more real. Because now the fear isn't just for myself. It's for little literal pieces of myself who don't yet know how truly the scary the world can be. I think fear and anxiety as a mother is inevitable – if we could stop the bad and hurtful things from entering those little pieces of us, we would.

    I think the original writer might have meant that love for a child (as a mother) creates this giant gaping wellspring of emotion that swallows whole any formerly known emotion. Everything changes. I'm not only fighting for myself, but for my babies. Of course, as a mother, I choose every day to let the enormous weight of raising a child in this world either crush me or motivate me. To motivate me to show them love and compassion and goodness. That those virtues are still alive in the world, and that we can, and must, chase after them. It would be foolish of me to say that I never fear for my babies. I do, daily. But I also choose to let the larger quality of love to envelop the smaller, more scary emotions. As a mother, I don't expect to ever stop worrying or fearing that my babies will be hurt or scared or alone. But as a mother, I will never ever stop loving them with that deep and sacred kind of love that seems to swallow everything whole.

    • danny July 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      I won't be able to respond to all the points you bring up, but just some quick thoughts.

      I don't want you to think that you'll never have fear for the safety or well being of your child. That isn't what I'm suggesting. It isn't about not experiencing fear at all or in any way. It is that we shouldn't be calling fear love.

      They are not even remotely the same thing, they bring very different states of internal emotion and energy to our bodies and souls. Fear crushes, captivates, controls, and paralyzes. Love doesn't do any of those things, it is just the opposite.

      I don't expect you to live a life where you never encounter fear. And if you do encounter fear, you are in no way failing. It is a part of life, and even your child will have to learn how to experience and deal with it if they are to successfully navigate the many obstacles and failures of life. There will be fear in life…but a truly free life is about conquering that fear, not cozying up to it.

      "Perfect love casts out all fear." I'm not there yet, but it is what I am seeking. And if I want to get there, I can't explain away my fears as examples of my love. I have to confront them for what they are, and see if there is something I can do about it. And if I fail today, tomorrow is another day to continue the quest of developing that Perfect Love.

  32. danny July 9, 2013 at 4:48 am - Reply

    In case you need a reference from a higher authority, there's always Yoda…

    "Fear is the path of the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

    I'm sticking to my guns on this one. I realize some who read the post are concerned with the tone. They make reasonable statements and I happily accept their criticism and plan to be better in the future. Others struggle with the idea that I'm telling them they are bad if they have fear in their lives, and then feel the need to defend those fears. I did not say such things, and your defense of fear is unnecessary. I too recognize that it is a part of life, and that it often creeps into all of our relationships, be it parent, friend, child, spouse, etc. But just because it often knocks on my door doesn't mean I need to make it a welcome guest and call it by a friendlier name.

    If someone tries to call fear and anger and doubt and guilt "Love"…well then I'm going to have to disagree.

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