Tag Archives: love

Shades of Grey…and Compassion

When I was younger, so many things were black and white.

If in a relationship your partner hit you, you left, automatically, like a knee-jerk reaction. Same if he cheated on you. If someone raped you, you went straight to the police and gave them all the information you could. If someone in a position of authority to you sexually harassed you, you reported them to all the relevant people immediately. Your responsibility was partly to yourself, but it was also to every other person that might potentially be hurt by your decision to not speak out. Right and wrong. Black and white.

I can read the paragraph that I just wrote, and believe every word to be true. I can read it and feel the fierceness of the statements: a reminder to all the world that such acts can not go unreported, without consequence, that individuals are strong and that no one, no one should take advantage or abuse in such a way.

This I believe. I swear I do.


But so help me God, I have come to know shades of grey in the midst of that stark black and white. And suddenly I can’t see the way forward, because every path that once was white is muddled by things I never thought could exist in those situations…

Like fear. Like trust. Like uncertainty. Like family. Like power. Like habit. Like self-protection.

Like (and oh how unbelievable this might have sounded to me, once upon a time) that keeping silent might be the very thing, the only thing that gives you the space and time to heal, because speaking out might actually shred your heart in ways which would only continue to damage you, at a time when any more damage might truly break you.

I am learning not to judge those who live through situations that were once so black and white. Because they are coping the only way they can. They are doing the best they can. They are protecting themselves, and trying to heal, and holding on as best they can. Because nothing is black and white anymore. Because unless you can feel just how a soul is being broken and trying to piece itself together again, then you are in no position, and have no right, to judge them.

Because I’ve had to learn not to judge myself.

So here, in the midst of the shades of grey, between old convictions and new understanding, I am learning to hold compassion instead of judgment.

How about you? Is the world as black and white for you as it once may have been?


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Cake, and…I love you.

I love cake.

Ok wait, let me be a little more specific. I love homemade cake. I love it best when someone has creamed the butter and sugar, measured and sifted the dry ingredients, folded in the extras, turned it into a tin and watched through the oven window carefully to make sure to take it out at just the right moment.

But I love it best when someone I love has done all those things.

When I bake a cake for someone, I bake it with lots and lots of love. I don’t just mean that I pour a lot of love into it when I’m baking (although I do). I also mean that the whole process, from choosing the cake, baking it, giving it, and sharing it, is a process in which I’m saying ‘I love you’.

That ‘I love you’ sounds a little like this: ‘I love you, so I’m choosing a cake I think you’ll like. I love you, so I’m putting a lot of time and effort into making the cake scrumptious. I love you, so I’m hoping to make you smile on your face when you take the first bite.’

All that from one cake, without even saying the words ‘Hey, I love you…have some cake‘. So if I ever offer you some of my cake…you’ll know what I’m really saying.

Which leads me to ask..how do you say ‘I love you’ to the important people in your life? Maybe you take the time to really listen during a phone-call. Maybe you buy a little something that reminds you of a loved one and pop it in the post. Maybe you tell them how beautiful their smile is.

But just as important as how you say it, is how you like to hear it. What makes you feel the most loved? Is it when someone sits down with you and gives you all their attention? Or maybe it’s when they give you a gift–for no reason at all.

Because the thing is, letting someone know that you love them is about communication. It’s a kind of language…which is why it’s not surprizing that Gary Chapman has assembled a theory about how we communicate love. He believes that there are five different languages to love: giving words of affection; giving quality time; giving gifts; giving acts of service; giving physical touch. Five very different ways of saying ‘I love you’.

What makes the communication difficult is that we tend to give love the way that we would like to receive it. So, if you feel loved when someone gives you physical affection, then you probably will instinctually offer physical affection as a way of expressing your love. Because that’s how you feel loved, you figure that the other person will feel loved because of it too, right? Well…you might be right, if physical affection is one of their primary languages. But if it’s not, then you’re saying ‘I love you’ and your partner isn’t hearing it because she doesn’t speak that language of love. After all, if you came home one day and said “Te iubesc”, your partner wouldn’t have a clue what you were saying…unless they speak Romanian.

From my own experience, I’m on board with Chapman’s theory: gift-giving isn’t one of my primary languages, but I know that when my partner gives me lots of little presents ‘just because’ that it’s one of his languages. The key is to learn each other’s preferred language(s) and to make sure that you communicate in it.

Which begs the question…what about you? Does this theory strike a chord with you? Do you know how you like to hear and say ‘I love you’? Do you know how your partner likes to hear it?

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