For those of us who feel deeply, loving someone who doesn’t love us back can be a challenging experience.
When someone doesn’t want all that we have to give—be it friend, family member or lover—our love can feel heavy in our hands.
When I first experienced this heaviness, it came out of left field. It was difficult to have an enormous amount of love in me for someone who didn’t want it. What was I supposed to do with all those feelings? I finally decided that I needed to be able to express all of my love—that it wouldn’t be healthy for me (or for him) if I kept pouring it into someone who didn’t feel the same.
Instead, I decided that I would take that love and release it into the world.
But how do we do that? It sounds nice in theory, but there needs to be a practical way to express that love. How do we take what could be a negative experience (loving someone who doesn’t want our love) and turn it into a positive force? Is that even possible?
I think it is. I think many negative experiences can shape us in ways that make us (and the world) better—or we can allow them to twist us into something we’re not. Love in particular is a powerful force. We’ve all felt that at some point or another; we’ve probably experienced how strong and fierce and sometimes overwhelming it can be to love someone.
When it comes to unrequited love, we can allow the experience to make us bitter—or we can let our love become a healing force in the world. We can take the powerful emotion that is love and channel it in the right directions, allowing for a positive ripple effect into the world.
Here are a dozen ways I’ve found to express the love that I feel in a way that has a positive impact on the world around me:
We can find a cause that we’re passionate about and direct our love and energy into helping someone else. Bibliophiles can volunteer at local libraries. Animal lovers can volunteer at a local shelter. Wherever our passions lie, we can find an opportunity to make a difference in our world by giving our time. This is a wonderful expression of love, too.
2. Random Acts of Kindness.
We can pay for the person behind us in line at the drive-through. We can look for opportunities to be helpful while we go about our day. We can offer to let someone go ahead of us in a line. It doesn’t have to be something big. The important thing is that we look for opportunities to be kind.
3. Care for Public Service Workers.
Police, firefighters, nurses, postal workers—we can take a moment to simply bake cookies or bring a special treat to the people who make our lives easier and safer.
4. Write a Thank You Letter.
We can take the time to say “thank you.” To the server who always waits on us at a favorite restaurant, Or the people in our lives who support us, or anyone else. And yes, we could send an email or text, but a handwritten note is a rare and meaningful way to let others know we appreciate them.
5. Give Sincere Compliments.
To friends as well as strangers. When we think someone looks nice or did a good job, we can take the time to tell them. Keep it kind, and don’t cross over into creepy or backhanded.
6. Help Someone without being Asked.
Open a door, offer to babysit, help with a challenging chore—anything. Look for ways to be of service to someone else. Have an elderly neighbor who struggles with lawn care? Perhaps mow their lawn in addition to your own one day.
7. Take a Day (or week or month) to Refrain from Complaints.
Both IRL (in real life) and on social media. Instead, spread joy. Post a funny meme or comic. Celebrate something beautiful. Express gratitude. Make it a point to keep communication encouraging and uplifting. We can check ourselves before we post: Is what we’re saying necessary? Does it make people feel good? Does it make the world a better place to have expressed it? If the answer is no, perhaps it’s time to use that delete button.
8. Practice Gratitude.
Learn to make the entire year a time of gratitude—not just Thanksgiving. Saying “thank you” never gets old, and people like to hear that they are appreciated and that we notice their effort.
9. Donate Goods, Money or Time.
We can donate gently-used clothes or toys to a battered women’s shelter, or take canned goods to a food bank. We can pack backpacks of supplies for school children who may otherwise do without. We can find many ways to help out our communities, even if we don’t have a lot of money to contribute.
10. Hug our Friends.
People need hugs. We might be surprised to know how many people go without physical touch on a regular basis. So let’s take the time to give hugs or a supportive pat on the back to the people in our lives.
11. Say I Love You.
To friends. To family. To anyone we love. We can say it even if we know we won’t hear it back. We shouldn’t assume other people know that we love them.
12. Encourage Others.
Even when people are struggling, there are always things they’re doing right. We can find a way to encourage the people in our lives—not through unsolicited advice but in recognizing their effort or offering a listening ear when needed.
Sure, it’s idealistic. But what if we all channeled the love we feel into being kind to others? Into generosity? Into gratitude?
So I fell in love with someone who just liked me back. I could sit around and blame him for not loving me—or blame the new girlfriend or life in general. I could sit around and be sad that I have all this love and nowhere to put it.
Or I can be grateful for it. Grateful that I had it. Grateful that I have the capacity to love someone like that. I can take all of that love and put it out in the world, allowing it to make someone else’s life better.
Part of that is keeping my heart open. I show up to dates and sit across the table from someone with an open mind and open heart. I’m not thinking about someone who didn’t love me back; instead, I’m staying open to new possibilities, to love, to friendship. That’s all part of redirecting my love into the world—remaining an active participant in my own life.
Think of the power we have to do good in the world. All those “unlucky” experiences might just be a force of good for someone in need. Let’s heal the world, one kind act at a time. Let’s take all the love we have and send it out there.
Because someone needs it. Maybe that someone is you—or maybe it’s me. We won’t know if we sit home feeling sad and lonely, hoarding all that love in our hearts. It’s time to let it go. And let it come back to us.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Daniela Brown/Flickr
Editor: Toby Israel