February 13: To my siblings+those who desire love.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. That being said, I’m guessing your responses to that were something close to one of these:

“Oh, what a romantic day it will be.”

“Stupid, commercialized, hallmark holiday”

or “you mean, GALentine’s day!”

And honestly, I can get behind all of those statements. Tomorrow: I will be romantically in love with my fiance; I will still not be a fan of the ridiculously over-hyped holiday; And I will celebrate the amazing friendships I have with women. But, this post isn’t really about any of that.

A few years ago as V-day came and went, I wrote a post on the love I believe in (if you really want to, you can read it here). However, this year I have some thoughts about what I know love is not.

Everyone’s favorite topic (on social media, on blogs, on the radio..) lately seems to be the cinema release of Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s like everywhere I turn there is someone with an opinion about this movie. I, too, have plenty of opinions on the premise of the movie. But here, I just want to share some things that I believe are relevant.

In January of 2012 I was first told about the realities of slavery, manipulation and abuse between human beings in this world. I am talking heart wrenching evil happening in countries on the other side of the world AND in our backyards. Things happening that are quite literally the opposite of the love that I believe in. As my eyes/ears/heart were opened to this I began to notice it more. Sexual assault on my university campus, trafficked girls stuck in the psychological trap of prostitution right here in Wisconsin, girls who believe men when they say, “this is the best way I can show you I love you,” so they willingly give in. These are real people, real individuals, who are not only not receiving love, but their experiences are causing them to build psychological firewalls that prevent them from accepting it.

I lived for 3.5 months in a country where boyfriends and husbands would allow the women they “loved” to sell their bodies for cheap sex. As long as they were making money, it didn’t matter to them where it came from. This is a culture so deeply woven with inferior views of women, the economy-booming sex industry, and lust that I don’t have nearly the time to go into it all now. But, while I lived there I learned so much about a culture’s impact on the minds of the youth who grow up in it. It significantly drives their beliefs, activities, and view of relationships. This is SO important to realize.

I have three younger siblings. In August, I will gain three more. Six siblings ranging from age 10-20. They (and I) are learning, living, and experiencing life in the 2015 American culture. This is a culture where a Valentine’s weekend book-turned-movie release depicts, “a glaring glamorization of violence against women.” (Amy Bonomi, chair of HDFS at Michigan State University, as quoted in the New York Times). But this is not all just about a movie. This is about the culture- many cultures, in fact. Far too many people who glamorize and romanticize things that are not love. So, I need to make some clarifications. Specifically to my six siblings (Maggie, Taylor, Nick, Gretchen, Luke and Noah), but also to whoever might be stuck believing some of these culture lies that so easily creep through the media into our beliefs- because our culture affects us. And I want you to know how it may be affecting us negatively.

1. Manipulation is not love. It is not loving. No part of a relationship or encounter where you find yourself compromising your beliefs/morals/values is a relationship founded in love. No matter what the other person/people say.

2. Abuse is not love. It is not loving. No part of a relationship or encounter where you are abused (emotionally, physically, psychologically) is a relationship founded in love. No matter what the person/people say.

3. Be weary of our culture. It has great things. It often promotes our independence, our capabilities, our human rights- but it also often wrongly romanticizes things that are not love.

You have access to true love. You have access to a relationship where you feel uplifted, cherished, and accepted as you are. You have access to a love where as you receive it, you can’t help but pour it back out. You have access to a love that is eternally committed to you. You have a Holy God who loves you in this divine and perfect way. You have access to this love because God SO LOVED YOU that He sent His son to die for you.

So, please don’t accept things that are not love. You (every person reading this) already have access to the real thing.

Maggie, Taylor, Nick, Gretchen, Luke and Noah- I believe each of you deserve nothing less than a relationship founded in true love. And I hope you come to know/ believe that for yourselves (if you don’t already). I love you. -E

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