What is Love?
This is a much pondered and sometimes vexing question! Much has been written about Love – and in light of the commercial celebration of Valentine’s Day I thought this week’s blog would attend to the question of Love – ‘a many splendid thing’!!
I love apple pie.
I love my dog.
I love my job.
I love being in nature.
I love my kids.
I Love You!
This same word used so liberally has many meanings, depending on the context. Love has many forms – romantic love, caring and cherishing, appreciation and enjoyment, to name a few. The confusion can come when it is misunderstood, based on what it means to each of us to LOVE.
To know Unconditional Love – that love without judgement – is what we all desire.
When we are very small babies and children – we long for love, and validation – it is like oxygen to us – when love is withheld or blocked from human children, they die – emotionally, and they may even die physically. As we grow older, this intertwining of love and survival can have us ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’ – seeking love & validation externally from others, rather than from within. Trying to work out what we need to do to deserve love. Today I will explore briefly some of the ways love can be expressed, and especially I want to explore self-love – it has been one of my life lessons – to learn to be ok with self-love and less co-dependent on the love and validation from others.
Love is connection – the kind of connection that lifts our spirits, when we walk away feeling uplifted.
Is Hate the opposite of Love? I don’t think so…it is still possible to love someone, even when they might be doing things that we don’t like – we can love them for who they are – not what they are doing. We can take responsibility for ourselves, and our response to their behaviour, and keep ourselves safe, without making them wrong. I don’t need to hate someone just to get away from them, or to take a different path. Love can be a constant, whether we share a path or not is a choice.
We can choose who we surround ourselves with – those who we feel are our tribe – and from that place of belonging, still allow others to be themselves without judgement. Accepting ourselves and accepting others allows for the love to still exist between us.
Wayne and I always emphasised to our two sons that we would ‘always love you, even if we might not like what you are doing at the time’. By saying this we hoped to allow them to become themselves, explore various behaviours and ways of being, and that there would always be a soft place to fall, regardless of their achievements or the consequences of their actions. An expression of Unconditional Love.
[Who they are being is more important than what they are doing.]
Only fear, and the absence of forgiveness can obstruct love.
A Course in Miracles states that the opposite of Love is Fear, and that when we don’t choose love, we allow the fear to dominate, to direct our thoughts, words and actions. “Fear arises from lack of love. The only remedy for lack of love is Perfect Love.” To me this means tapping into the Source of Perfect Love: God, the Universe, Source Energy, Higher Self – in the way that is meaningful to you. It is our disconnection from this Source of Perfect Love that allows fear to take hold, and lead to further disconnection from those around us.
NB Perfect Love transcends Human Thought – it needs to come from beyond the ego!
Expressing Love to Others
The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman is one of my all-time favourite resource books!
It explains 5 main languages that people use to convey their love (validation) to another. We may have a preference for 1 or 2 of these languages, and the person from whom we are seeking validation, or wanting to express it towards may have a different preference – or default setting. If we are desiring to communicate love or validation to another, (or indeed to give to ourselves!), it can help to be aware of these and be intentional in our communication.
Sometimes we can be busy topping up the tanks of others and in the process of doing that find ourselves running on empty in the love tank! (Speaking from experience!) This co-dependant love can leave us resenting the very people we have been caring for – feeling unappreciated and cranky – waiting for them to give back to us! What I have come to realise (and am still on the learning path with this one) is that this leads to projection of our needs onto another, and can lead to disappointment. When I have topped up my own tank, then I am in a better position to love those around me (just like the oxygen mask in the plane needs to go on the parents first before the kids).
Some great teachers have reiterated this principle of self-love in their messages:
The 2nd Great Commandment of Jesus was “love your neighbour as yourself”. To the degree that we are able to love ourselves, we are free and present to truly and unconditionally love another.
Thich Nhat Hanh – Zen teacher and renowned writer states “your capacity for loving another person depends entirely on your capacity for loving yourself, for taking care of yourself.”
Stephanie Dowrick (Choosing Happiness) says “we cannot love other people and truly love this glorious gift of life if we have forgotten how to love ourselves. If you have forgotten how to love yourself, you will probably ask (or demand) too much of other people. Love from other people can be immensely healing, uplifting, and sustaining. But it is never enough. To reclaim our inheritance of love, we need to bring love (vitality, engagement, freshness) or perhaps gentleness and faithfulness, to everything we do. And we must dare to love ourselves.”
Love is a Choice – every day we choose to give (and receive) love and validation to those who journey through life alongside us. Every day we choose acts of self-love, or self-neglect. May we think, speak and act out of love, not fear!
Some years ago I heard a statement from Bishop Spong from the US…it has become a mantra for me:
Have the Courage to Be All You Can Be!
With Love, Gabrielle
Choosing Happiness ~ Stephanie Dowrick
Five Love Languages ~ Gary Chapman
A Course in Miracle
As a part of my own spiritual and personal practice, I chose 52 words to reflect on over the course of a year.