About thirty years ago, the love of my life kicked me out of the house. We were newly married, and I knew that things hadn’t been good, but hearing that her say she couldn’t stand to live with me anymore still caught me off-guard.
I was 100 percent convinced that I loved Hope. I told her so every day, I was faithful to her, and I spoke kinds words to her. But she didn’t feel that way, in fact, she felt like I didn’t really care about her much, like I really only cared about myself. So if I loved her so much, how come she didn’t feel loved? At the moment, I had no answer to that question.
Over the next few weeks, through ancient manuscripts, prayer, and advice from friends and mentors, I came to believe that I had not really been loving Hope at all. It really was all about what I wanted, and if I didn’t get it—whether it was sex, food, or leisure time—I would become irritated and sometimes angry, even if I didn’t express it.
I became convinced that what I had for Hope was not love, but lust—not only sexual, but a focus on what I want. Gradually, I became convinced of what real love was, and I knew I had never experienced it toward Hope. I remember a thought in my head I believe came from God, “Okay Alex, are you willing to really love Hope now?” What did that mean to me? All in. Nothing held back, no plan B, and no safety net. Forever. Whatever is best for Hope is what I want, even if it’s not best for me.
That’s what I still believe today. Love is putting the subject of your love before yourself, and being committed to that, come what may, with no expiration date. In my thirty years of working with people and helping them with their issues, it’s rare that the most important issues in their life do not come directly from this one thing. They are living, thinking, feeling, and acting in lust, even if they think it’s love.
Lust always wants to know “what’s in it for me.” Seek pleasure and avoid pain. Stimulus and response. The evidence that you’re living in lust is that when you don’t get what you want, you feel something in the anger family: irritation, frustration, resentment, or bitterness. On the other hand, if you are truly living in love, then you may still be disappointed when you don’t get your way, but not angry.
This works because your first priority was not to get your own way, it was for the object of your love to get what’s best for them, even at your own expense. Here’s the problem: on the outside, as long as things are going well, love and lust can look the same, sound the same, maybe even feel the same. But when something doesn’t go your way, then you see the difference.
These definitions have gotten so mixed up that most people live in lust without even realizing that’s what they’re doing, even saying while saying, “I love you” over and over and over, just like me. The paradox is that you can only be your happiest, healthiest, and best self if you are living in love. Lust, on the other hand, will destroy you. Do you spend more time thinking about what you want, or helping other get what’s best for them? Let me whisper in your ear: what’s best for you is helping others get what’s best for them. Nothing else in the world can replace that.
The largest study of its kind in the history of the world, the Harvard Grant study, took 75 years, thousands of subjects, and well over 10 million dollars to complete. The goal of the study was to determine what we humans want and need most in our lives. The result, I hope, is a clarion call for your life as much as Hope kicking me out was for mine: it’s love, and nothing else is close.