Love is central to our lives. It is the purpose, passion and meaning of life. To love and be loved is the point of it all.Yet love, so important and central to our lives, is a complex experience and a confusing word. We mean different things and misunderstand each other when we say, “I love you.”
Our personal journeys and growth in love may begin with attraction emotional and physical but it must grow beyond this in order to last. It is warmth and affection, compassion and care. Many reserve their love for one soul mate. For others, love is expressed as compassion to many.
I see love as a potential spiritual experience – to see and be seen as we really are – beyond what we each appear to be. To love is to recognize the divine in another person, and with that recognition, dedication, compassion and caring flow naturally. To be loved this way is like coming home, finding your authentic self and discovering that you are not alone.
Love takes us deeper into the self yet goes beyond self. It penetrates to the depths of the soul. We love the unique expression of the divine in the other, the other is no longer separate from us, and once that connection between you is experienced, there can be no separation.
Life is all about relationships, and love is the point of it all. Life is imperfect, we are all flawed, life is unpredictable, and we all make mistakes. We waste our time and energy, we stray from our paths, and we harm each other. Yet love makes it worthwhile and allows us to forgive others and ourselves.
At the end of our lives, relationships matter most, and what lasts is love. All I have left from my mother is love but that love would just be a memory if I didn’t continue to share that love – to express it in thoughts, words and actions, to do more than is required, to do what I am moved to do.
The greatest potential in our lives lies in our capacity for love – to love and to accept it. What holds us back?
We fear rejection, exposure and the vulnerability of expressing our deepest feelings. We fear potential loss. Having opened up and shared joy, will we lose it again? Can we save ourselves from future misery by keeping the door closed? By holding our cards close to our heart and never showing our hand, will we win or will the loss of not fully loving or accepting love make us all losers in the end? With the deeper love is the grief greater – or do we die a thousand smaller deaths, a little at a time with love unrealized?
We can express our love in many ways. In daily acts of caring, parents prepare their children for school, make their breakfasts and pack their lunches. We express love and appreciation with kind words, thank yous and doing our share to make living together more pleasant, picking up after ourselves and one another.
We express love by showing concern. To ask and listen when someone needs help or comfort.
When my daughter was 10 years old and I was away at a conference, she sent me her picture by email with a message that she missed me. She packed a teddy bear in my bag.
When my sons were teenagers, they were more reserved. I would listen for the positive inflection in a grunt, and I accepted their share of the housework – clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher and helping with the laundry and the lawn – as their expressions of love.
Our best friends can love us the best. We can have many kinds of friends, but it is in our deepest, longest friendships that we experience great love. It is expressed in empathy, being on your side but telling you the truth when you need to hear it, always ready to drop everything to help, always offering unconditional positive regard with our aging bodies and changing circumstances. One of my best friends, not knowing if he was going to make it through major surgery the next day, called me to say, “I love you, man.” We cannot open ourselves in this way to many people, but just one great friend can make life more livable.
Love gives meaning, purpose and passion to our lives. In our minds, we organize our lives with an evolving story. Love is the point of our stories.
At the end of life when you ask yourself, “Have I loved enough?”, what will be your answer? We ought to ask ourselves this question often throughout our lives so that we can do what we should while we can.
My childhood friend, Stan once asked me, “If you knew tomorrow you weren’t going to see someone ever again, what would you say and do today?”
So what are you going to do today?