The commonest phrase and gesture the victims of 9/11 heard, felt, or expressed in their final hour would have been, without much doubt, “I love you.” It is a revered and solemn gift. Yet, many never think to say it or they avoid saying it. Why is it we think of saying, “I love you,” most when it’s too late?
Perhaps we mean to say it more, but don’t; for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we don’t say it because we lack courage, or we don’t know how to say it in ways we mean it, or maybe we’re scared of saying it or getting it wrong.
It takes a great deal of vulnerability for many to say, “I love you.” For others, it’s just a matter of making the time and effort. For others, again, it’s simply remembering to do it. And for a few, it becomes simply a cliché.
Converting Words to Meaning
Many people struggle to say the words because of the meaning attached or to say the words with meaning. They struggle for intimacy because there are trust issues between the two, or they don’t have the self-esteem or courage to look someone in the eye and honestly give of themselves that way. But boldness and vulnerability are to be their allies.
If only they give the words a chance to escape their lips. Before it’s too late.
Converting words to meaning or finding different words or ways to say the same thing, requires imagination motivated by love; that is affection directed toward another.
Somehow, it must be remembered, words can cheapen meaning. We can flippantly say, “I love you,” and it becomes habitual and meaning is stripped away. Such a powerful phrase diminishes in importance. But that can only occur if we say it mindlessly.
To say, “I love you,” and not mean it betrays the words themselves, and this actually causes us to reflect if we’ve become flippant.
When the words are said with thoughtfulness, intimacy is conveyed. When the words are said mindfully, the whole body and spirit acts in unison, and the person being told how much they mean to you feels loved.
The meaning of the phrase is where its power resides.
And words are not the only way to say, “I love you.”
Saying It As If Today Were the Last
As I reflected recently on the motion picture, Ghost (1990), I was compelled afresh to reconcile the frailty of life—that loved ones always die too early.
Sam Wheat, played by Patrick Swayze (himself now gone), is insatiably in love with Molly Jensen, played by Demi Moore. He famously responds, “Ditto!” to her vocal affirmations of love toward him, much to her annoyance. The “I love you/ditto” issue becomes central to the plot in the movie. These two are parted so suddenly that it is stark to the viewer that while love is deep, life is too short, and people forget to say their “I love yous” all too often.
We have to do better than “ditto,” although, again, we need to be free to express love beyond words. Some people’s dittos will really communicate a richness of love.
Saying, “I love you” with utter sincerity is foremost acknowledging that any of our precious relationships could end at any time. That puts life into proper perspective. Remembering to say “I love you” is making the most of the given moment, before the moments suddenly stop being given.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on tribework.blogspot.com/