Once upon a time there was little girl who had a bully. He was not unwilling to beat people up if they were boys, although he knew that the teachers who looked the other way when he was a racist little beast (among other fine traits) would step in and put a stop to it if he hit girls. But what he really loved was to say horrible, nasty things to people. Starting in kindergarten, he thought it was great fun if he could make people cry. By the time third grade rolled around, he hadn't made this little girl cry, but he made her furious and miserable quite a lot.
Furious and miserable was not good enough.
So he brought out the big guns, the worst thing he could think of. Surely that would finally make her cry. This little girl was an only child. And her bully informed her that that meant that her parents didn't want kids at all, that they didn't like her and certainly didn't love her. And then he folded his arms to watch her fall apart.
And she laughed.
Of all the things the little girl knew in her clever, bookish little life, the one that was bedrock certain, all the way down, was that her Mom and Daddy loved her and wanted her. And so the bully's spell was broken. After that, he could upset her by hurting her best friends, but she always knew that he was full of it, making things up to be hurtful, and his power over her was gone.
Not everyone is given that kind of bedrock-certainty love as a kid. But everyone should be. Those of us who have that kind of upbringing have the world's most important kind of noblesse oblige. We are obligated to pass that along -- to our own children if we have any, but also to partners and friends, to whatever others we come upon in our lives who have a piece of our hearts, mentors or protégés, cousins, in-laws, godchildren, whoever. We owe it to the rest of the world to find people to whom we can pass on that certainty of love. We need to let the people we love know it so thoroughly that when the world's nasty voices hiss, "She doesn't really love you," they can laugh and say, "Of course she does. What a stupid thing to say," and mean it down into their bones.