For many people today this question is answered very easily. One might answer by saying, “I learned to love because the people in my life while growing up showed me love.” This certainly makes is much easier for a person to understand the importance of having love in your life.
Let’s say you grow up without the opportunity to feel the love of another human being. You were never shown any affection; nor did you know how to show affection or compassion to others. It seems that the people around you seem to have love in their life and they tell you that they love you but you can’t feel that love in any way. What are the consequences for this person and everyone around?

Life Experience

Part of my experience growing up Amish was that I was not to show physical affection to another person in any way. If you needed physical affection from anyone other than your life partner you were considered a weak person and the devil had possessed you. Any affection you showed your partner was to be done behind closed bedroom door or in the dark. It was not okay to show affection in public.
As a baby and toddler I know that my mother gave me a hug once in a while but since then or as far back as I can remember I was not hugged or was shown any affection. I can count on my one hand how many times I was told by my mother that she loved me and never by my father. It was expected of me to just know that they love me because they gave me clothes to wear and food to eat.

Many children grow up without daily affection and some seem to do okay as adults because they never get to the point of knowing what was missing. In my early years I thought it was normal and I had not idea I was missing out. However in my mid to late teen years I realized I was missing love. Not only did I not have love for others but I also did not have any love for myself. By then I had built a hard shell around me to protect me from attacks (what it felt like to me) from other people and my total focus was how to maintain that protection vs. learning how to love me. Love and compassion were not part of my vocabulary.

The community that I lived in was over all lacking compassion for each other. It was not just me but a community wide problem. The Amish are so set on passing tradition down to the next generation that they forget to catch up with the times and adjust. I do know that my parents didn’t set out to purposely not teach me affection and compassion but rather they were teaching me exactly what they had been taught.

My thoughts during my growing up years were that nobody seemed to really care about me so why should I care about me or anyone else. The only way another person could like me just a little was if I tried even harder to be just like someone else. I spent many years putting all my energy into trying my best to be like another person. Plus I truly believe that I was in a deep depression for many years before I finally left the Amish and then doctored for it. When you add that combination together it can become dangerous.

I am very lucky, grateful, and the love of God that I am still alive today. In my late teens and early 20’s I wanted to die. It was the only way I could see that the pain in my heart would stop. Actually at one point I felt my heart was missing. I wanted to feel enough love for me so that I could feel like I am part of society. Everything that happened (good or bad) in my life was my fault and was just because I was so dumb or stupid. I constantly called myself these awful things to help justify my actions in my mind.

My parents did not set out to teach me to hate myself but that is the consequence of not showing affection or telling your children that you love them. The other part of this is that my parents did not recognize my depression or get me any help for it. When I talked about how bad I constantly felt I was told, “if only you would follow the rules and listen well then God will take those feelings away.” I tried my best but my feelings never changed which then left me to believe that even God does not care about me.

Eventually I stopped caring about following the Amish rules and did whatever I wanted. With Gods help I was led to meet a dear friend who helped me leave and also asked me to see a doctor for my depression. This is where my life began to change for the better. I had many good days but also many not so good days. What I am telling you is that the road to recovery was not easy or short. It took years of medication and counseling for me to realize that God had been watching over me, God loved, and he did care.

In small but important steps I learned how to love me and then how to show love and compassion to others in my life. Here is a partial list of the critical steps I took.

• Never stop taking your medication, unless directed by your doctor

• Always attend and participate in your counseling sessions

• Heed the advice given and apply it

• Know up front the bad days are not over yet

• Ask questions

• Search out supporting friends & drop those that don’t

• Create and keep a vision for your life in mind

• Never give up

Author's Bio: 

Anna Dee Olson is the author of a book called: "Growing Up Amish: Insider Secrets from One Woman's Inspirational Journey" Today Anna is conducting Teleseminars on a regular basis to provide a bridge to the gap between the Amish culture and mainstream America. If you have a question or just want to listen to Anna answer other peoples questions, visit: for details.