We all know there are a myriad of sources from which it comes. And we know it is powerful. It hits sometimes without warning. Other times it sneaks up on us, but when it gets our attention, it still does so by bopping us upside the head.
Contrary to popular retorts to the lovelorn, love does sometimes hurt. Not physically, of course, but in the heart and soul and self.
Love has a way of changing over time. In the case of romantic love, the first flutters of infatuation – those thoughts that take the bottoms from our stomachs, letting in the butterflies – are gradually replaced by a strong mutual respect and admiration, an easy lightness of being together in silence. It morphs from lusty urgency to drifting off to sleep as spoons, content to feel the closeness of the other’s essence.
Too many times love disappoints us. The expectations, one from another, fail to balance, to match in our synergistic dance. One or both of us fail to remember what it was that pulled us together in the first place. She might mistake his dominance, his jealous rants and controlling demands as true love. It is not. He might mistake her helplessness and neediness for love. It is not.
The kind of love we have for our children is miles apart from the love we have for those whose union created us. We tend to love our children no matter what; whereas our parents are easy to resent for their possibly well-intended methods of rearing us. But we are our parents’ children, and as parents ourselves we come to understand how our resentment toward them makes them feel.
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” So said a character in the wildly popular movie of a distant time, Love Story. It turns out, that is not correct. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite. Love is what makes us step up and admit when we have done wrong, by mistake or with purpose.
Love is not a thought. It is a behavior. It does no good to think with love, or speak of it, if our actions deliver a contrary message. "Loving thy neighbor’ is not just something we talk about on the Sabbath in a structure we visit only once a week. And “thy neighbor” is not just the couple next door.
It is the kid sitting on the other side of the classroom. It is the family in the next block who do zany things like turn live goats loose in their front yard to mow the lawn. It is the person who lives in a different region of your country, who speaks with a different accent and lives her life in a totally different way. It is the country to the south of us and the continents across the seas.
The love of self is a behavior, too. Love of self is not bad; it is essential. Love of self is a prerequisite for loving any others. It is not enough to say we love ourselves. We must behave our way to good health – mental, emotional and physical. We cannot defile our bodies with poisons and recklessness and truthfully claim to love ourselves.
If you have it [Love], you don't need to have anything else, and if you don't have it, it doesn't matter much what else you have. ~Sir James M. Barrie