4 Levels of Love. Runkel’s Adaptation of Bernard of Clairvaux’s Levels of Love

Hal Runkel’s book, Scream-Free Parenting, is a great read with many great insights.  Perhaps the greatest one is his adaptation of Bernard of Clairvaux’s 4 Levels of Love:

 

1) I LOVE ME FOR MY BENEFIT.

This is the most selfish and the most infantile of the four levels.  “I care for my interests alone, and I am only interested in results that immediately and ultimately befit me.”

 

2) I LOVE YOU FOR MY BENEFIT.

Most of us dwell here.  “I love you and care for you because I receive validation knowing I add value to your life.  I love you because I need to in order to feel right, safe, strong, worthy.”  It’s the Golden Rule twisted inside out.  Instead of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” it turns into “Do unto others so that they might do unto you.”

 

3)  I LOVE YOU FOR YOUR BENEFIT.

Statements like “I’ll always be here for you” and “You’re the most important thing in the world to me.”  Yikes!  I don’t want that type of pressure, do you?  Especially if I’m just a kid.  The truth of the matter is that this level of love, while sounding elegantly selfless, can never truly exist.

 

4)  I LOVE ME FOR YOUR BENEFIT.

A person operating on this level says: “I love me, work on me, and build myself up so that I can come to you from a position of wholeness, a position of fullness.  I take care of me so that you don’t have to.  From fullness I can then empty myself, my gifts, my love, my actions, for your ultimate benefit.  I am the only one in charge of me and my well-being.  Therefore, as a steward of my greatest gift, my life, I need to take steps to ensure my health, my calmness of mind, my sanity, and my own validation as a person in the world.  Thus, I can free you from having to provide those things for me.  Thus, I can truly serve you without needing you to serve me.”

 

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