When I was a girl I remember a Pioneer Girl lesson. First there was a craft where we were given some yarn. Some we turned into little pom-pom puffs called “warm fuzzies” and some we wrapped around sweetgum seed pods to make “cold pricklies” We all agreed that “warm fuzzies” were nicer to feel than “cold pricklies.” and were were told this was a demonstration of why it was better to love than hate.
I think I remember this because something always struck me as slightly off about this lesson, even beyond, whether human touch preference proves anything. It’s certainly not that I disagree that it is better to love than to hate. Nor do I quarrel with the need to teach little kids to be nice to each other. It’s that I don’t think you can equate the two lessons.
The two types of balls are good examples of positive and negative social interactions. A social interaction where you feel accepted and connected, where you experience care you are looking for or the possibility of such care in the future, feels emotionally like a warm fuzzie feels to your fingers. And an interaction where you feel rejected, held apart, or have your ideas and identity poked at does have the same affect as a cold prickly.
Love does often manifest in the type of affection warm fuzzies indicate, softness and comfort and making the other person feel good. We all want and need that manifestation of love. But we can get in trouble if we mistake that for all of love or even the central essence of love. Even a loving critique can feel more like a cold prickly if it pops a bubble of unjustified self-satisfaction. A child may experience being taken to the doctor’s for a shot as painful even as it is in fact very loving.
You have an emotional need to be loved. The care you get from loved ones meets physical needs. But love is much more than the emotional high you get from cuddling. It is the knowledge of the intrinsic value of the beloved in the intellect of the lover. It is the settled expectation of abstractly good results in and from the beloved. It is a committed attitude by the lover to pursue the best interest of the beloved. When you think of love as just the warm fuzzies not only are you missing the depth and richness of love but it can lead you to pursuing love in the wrong places and by the wrong means.
It gets even more problematic when we get to the idea of unconditional love. This is often held up not just a theoretical ideal but as a real expectation in a family, a church or a community. It is often unacknowledged that unconditional love is a perfection and therefore no natural human is going to practice it completely or all the time. This issue is magnified when you start equating the subjective experience of warm fuzzies with receiving love. When I have a toothache or even when I’m just having a very bad day the nicest expressions of care can irritate me and feel like poking. In times uncertainty and doubt we’re going to want a warm fuzzy and want one “now!” to prove that we’re loved. And we usually won’t get that feeling of soft emotional glow we think means love. And that in itself will be an additional hurt and disappointment.
If we’re thinking of love as a good feeling available on demand we won’t ever know a permanent and reliable “love.” Love is such basic need in our lives, that we are cheating ourselves of something vital if we are only chasing warm fuzzies.