The word itself, love, is often spoken without thought. I love ice cream! He loves his football. "For the love of Pete", and so on. This haphazard use of the word only serves to cloud some of the meaning.
Some think love is no more than an abstract concept, while others view love as so complex that it cannot be adequately defined. Of course, nearly everyone at some point in their life has confused infatuation with love, or has projected the desire to be in love onto another person they find appealing. We go through many common lessons in life, and that allows us to learn from each other.
Unacceptable definitions Because love seems to be so confusing and hard to define at times, we may occasionally find ourselves allowing others to steer our love boat by believing something we heard or read without giving it much thought. Here are some definitions of love that I have read recently:
- An unexplainable attraction.
- A state of perpetual bliss.
- Power over which one has no control.
- When time stands still.
In the above examples, love would seem to be a magical or mystical phenomenon that just happens to you somehow, and you have little or no control over it. If that were true, we have no free will.
Those less romantic in nature have defined love like this:
- A fool's paradise.
- A frailty of the mind.
- A psychological illusion.
- A neurological bath of pleasure chemicals.
Hmm...the glass seems not just half empty, but completely empty for the first three folks there; and the last one reduces love to the level of laboratory rat analysis. Well now, isn't that special!
Here are a few definitions of love from folks that are likely to be disappointed when their illusions are shattered:
- The home you find in another.
- Someone who would never hurt you.
- Finding someone who completes your puzzle.
- Hanging on to someone no matter what.
You may be wondering why the people that gave those descriptions of love would end up disappointed. Here's why:
A home you find in another is a very appealing romantic notion, but if you're not already "at home" within yourself, you'll never find a home in someone else. If you are at home within yourself, there is no need to find a home in another. Those who believe happiness lies outside of themselves will always end up disappointed. Happiness is our own responsibility.
The next one, to believe love never hurts, is simply immature. Every person in a close relationship will be hurt from time to time, whether by intention, accident, or omission. No human being is perfect, so there can be no such thing as a perfect relationship between two imperfect humans.
If you're at home within yourself, there is no need to find a home in another
Sometimes it's even necessary to hurt someone we love because of our love for them. You may have to hurt your children's feeling when you won't let them do something they want to do because of a risk or danger involved, or simply because you are trying to teach lessons they don't want to learn. You may hurt your spouse's feelings by taking away the car keys because he or she has been drinking and insists on driving.
Love sometimes does hurt, or perhaps better said, a disagreement over an application of love hurts. If we could "see" the love behind the actions that hurt, maybe it wouldn't seem to hurt so much.
The next one, finding someone who completes our puzzle is another romanticized idea of love closely related to finding a home in another person. The notion implies we are lost or incomplete until we find our completeness in another. The truth is, no one completes your puzzle. Each of us is complete and whole already.
What the writer needs is to find is a better balance of his or her energies, emotions, thoughts, and self-image -- then he or she would realize the completeness is already present. To look for someone to complete the puzzle is looking for love in the wrong places. He or she desires someone to complement the completeness, and is confusing this with incompleteness.
The catch-22 is the more incomplete you think you are, the smaller your chances are of finding the right person. Most emotionally healthy people want to partner with other emotionally healthy people, not with emotionally needy people.
And the last one, hanging on to someone no matter what...that's just plain old obsession...or stupidity. Left unchecked, obsession can degenerate into madness. Stupidity will do what stupidity will do and there isn't much we can do about it until the light turns on inside.
Some more promising definitions
On the other hand, I have seen some promising definitions of love:
- Mutual acceptance.
- Mutual selflessness.
- Caring bestowed without obligation.
- Choosing to do what is best for another person.
Those are all good thoughts, but love doesn't have to be mutual. And as I wrote earlier, love is also an attitude, a life style, a belief system, and more. What does that mean? Let's see...
We can choose to live with an attitude of love toward others without being "in love" with them.
Letting someone cut in front of you in a check out line when they have only a few items and you have many is a small act of love. Donating your change to a collection can by the cash register is a small act of love. Holding the door open for a stranger, helping a person in need, or even just smiling at someone can all be acts of love if your attitude is right.
Love isn't only expressed through showy acts of affection or through intensity of feelings. Love is more often demonstrated by many small, simple acts of kindness, and the love within us is made stronger by the repetition of these small acts of kindness. Love and kindness are the fruit of the same tree.
When you perform these small acts of love daily, without having to make a conscious effort to perform them, you have developed your attitude of love into a lifestyle. You may already be at this point, and if so, good for you! You are a moment of sanity in a world of chaos.
There will be times you will be the only blessing someone experiences on a given day, but you probably won't know it. Love doesn't seek recognition, it seeks positive actions that make the world a better place.
People without partners often think they are missing out on love because they aren't in love, but that's just not true. You can practice loving every single day, and when the right person comes along, you'll be really good at loving them!
Practice giving love, but also practice receiving love. Look for the kindnesses others bestow upon you and you'll realize you don't have to be in love to feel loved. It can be a watershed moment in a lonely person's life.
When we have chosen to act in loving ways long enough it becomes a lifestyle. It is in living this lifestyle with consistency and a glad heart that it becomes a part of our belief system.
As a belief system, love itself will manifest as character qualities within you that will cause others to want to be around you, to learn from you, and to be more like you. In other words, you will be a teacher of wisdom by example. You will be a channel of love in world in desperate need.
When you have made love a part of your belief system, you will know, perhaps for the first time, what a very special part of Creation you are and always have been. Do not let this knowing become vanity, however, for vanity is self-serving, and love is service to others.
What more is there to love? I could add to what I've written, so could you, but we could never write it all. I'm still learning. Anyone that is alive still has more to learn. What I can do is plant the seeds I have discovered, as others have planted seeds in me. It is up to each of us to care for our own garden once the seeds have been sown.
Love may have lessons to teach you that I am not ready to learn, or that I have already learned. We all have unique needs that love will see to, if we are open to learning.
As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. The same can be said of our circumstances. When the student is ready, the circumstances will develop that allow us to demonstrate what we've learned.
Why did I write this article?
I believe the real meaning of love is being eroded in today's society. Hollyweird portrays love in all sorts of ways that have little or nothing to do with real love. Civility seems to be at an all time low. Self-importance, self-worship, and old-fashioned selfishness are spreading like a bad virus, while virtue and morality are being debased and damned with increasing regularity.
Love often isn't a great act or intesity of emotion. In fact, love is more often the simple and small acts of kindness done selflessly where we truly demonstrate our love to others in its most perfect form. These small acts of caring is the glue that holds society together, and it is these small courtesies that society seems to be losing touch with.
When the glue is weakened, so is society. When society has been weakened enough, it fails. When society fails we are thrown into a life and death struggle for survival.
Think it can't happen? It has happened over and over throughout history. Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them. We must evolve while it's an option, because when life becomes a constant struggle for survival, personal evolution gives way to the daily battle for life.
By the way, society doesn't have to fail to be thrown into a struggle for survival. Think of what losing your job or health would do to you. Think of those affected by Hurricane Katrina.
The time for us to personally evolve and to help others to evolve is while we have the chance, because you never know when chance will close the door.
© 2006 Dennis Gaskill
Dennis Gaskil, a.k.a Boogie Jack, is the creator of BoogieJack.com, an almost legendary
resource site for webmasters, featuring a wide variety of highly-acclaimed tutorials, free tools and graphics, and very cool products. Dennis' multiple award-winning ezine Almost a Newsletter on web design and life skills, spiced with a heavy touch of humor, is packed with original content you won't find anywhere else.
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