The True Meaning of Love
What is "love?"
The poets have written about love at great length. Movies have been made. Operas, too. Such stories are filled with heartache, longing and betrayal. Some contain bliss, ecstasy and a blindness that leads men to do things they would never otherwise consider doing.
In Shakespeare's tale, both Romeo and Juliet end up dead! In Bizet's tragic work, Don José stabs Carmen, killing the woman he loves.
What is this powerful force that drives men willingly mad? What is this substance that compels women to scorn and jealous rage?
How can one force generate so many positive and negative effects? Is this really love?
What if we were to find out that love is none of these things?
Philosophers have had their say on this timeless subject. Virgil once remarked, "Love conquers all." St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as "to will the good of another." Love is "to be delighted by the happiness of another," said German mathematician, Gottfried Leibniz. And Jeremy Griffith, an Australian biologist, defined love as "unconditional selflessness."
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Finding the True Meaning of Love
Christ once said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
When we look critically at all the information at our disposal, we see a pattern. There are two categories of this substance called "love."
One category is filled with self-concern. This is the need to have another person fulfill one's own pleasures. Of course, such a love can drive a person to do things for that other individual, but the intent is always inward, toward the self. The pleasure and bliss are always egocentric. Even the philanthropy of an anonymous donor can be selfish if there is pleasure gained for the sake of the giver. Such self-satisfaction is still centered on self and remains tainted.
This kind of "selfish" love can lead to many negative effects. All of its positive effects are temporary and sometimes double-edged, combining both an agony and an ecstasy.
A young man falls blissfully in love with a young woman who is married and discovers that he can murder the husband if she needs it done. Another woman mutilates her husband when she discovers that he has been unfaithful. All of this selfish madness is not love. So, can selfish love really be called "love?"
The other love category is entirely selfless. This is sometimes referred to as agape. This is pure altruism. This is caring about another person with no need for reciprocation. There is no need for self-pleasure. If any pleasure is received, it is taken in for the pleasure of the other person and never for the self. To someone deeply entrenched in selfishness, this can be a difficult concept to grasp, as if to say, "Why would anyone ever do that?"
Thomas Jay Oord, American, theologian and philosopher, once described agape as "an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being." Though this can help us understand, this describes a purely mechanical approach to evil. Fear and cowardice can also sometimes promote well-being in response to such evil, but this is cunning avoidance of more evil for the benefit of self. True agape goes deeper to the attitude, or reason, which motivates such a response. True love (agape) concentrates on the other person. It has no self-concern and thinks only of the welfare and benefit of the other.
This second category of love results in only good, always. There is no self-concern to get in the way.
When we look at every negative attitude, behavior or emotion, we see self-concern lurking in the shadows. Fear dreads what might happen to self. Anger resents what has been done to self. Apathy wallows in self-pity. Even boredom remains self-concerned, for it needs something to entertain self.
With cowardice, we see self-concern driving a person to protect self no matter what harm may come to others—like the castaway who hides food from the other survivors. With jealousy, we see self-concern bitter at what has been done to self by another's lack of attention, or attention spent on a third person. With rage, self-concern lashes out against a perceived threat to self's wellbeing.
True love never keeps score. There's no need. True love never needs anything in return. It only desires to bestow upon others everything that they desire. When true love eats, it does so only because it is the responsible thing to do; it keeps the body alive so that more loving acts can be bestowed on others. The difference is in the motivation and attitude.
When Christ said not to resist evil, but to turn the other cheek, he was speaking of this kind of love. If someone slaps you in the face, you should not resent it, but welcome another, because it is what the other person desires. Love gives abundantly no matter what the other person needs.
Love is also wise. If another person attempts to seduce you into evil, you don't succumb to the temptation, but you don't hate it, either. As Christ told the adulteress, "Go, and sin no more." He did not condemn her, but he did not approve of her adultery, either. He loved her without loving her wickedness.
When Gautama Siddhartha left his comfortable life of riches as a prince of India, he sought to understand suffering so he could help others. He lived life for a time as an ascetic to know first hand what the suffering of others had been. When he found True love, he then dedicated his life to helping others find the same.
True love is willing to take responsibility for everything, including the actions of others. This is God's point-of-view—a viewpoint of infinite bestowal and caring. Because of this perfect responsibility, True love can never be a victim. Only those who are self-concerned can ever be victim.
True love is entirely humble, because it harbors no self-concern. It needs nothing for the self.
True love is fearlessly confident. Without self-concern, there are no limitations.
Dr. Martin Luther King on Agape Love
Many modern relationships do the "smart" thing and treat their feelings calmly. Each spouse in a marriage meets the other halfway. They do their own part and expect their partner to do theirs. This sounds reasonable, but it's not True love.
With True love, a person goes all the way—not halfway. Instead of 50–50, you have 100–100, for a total of 200%, but the effect is far greater than a doubling of effort. Each person is committed for life, no matter what happens with their partner. They give love as if it were in infinite abundance. They give their time as if they needed no time for themselves. They give, even if their partner has forgotten how to give.
Can someone abuse such love? Certainly. But True love takes such abuse with gratitude. This is possible, because True love takes the viewpoint of infinity. What matters a few hours, weeks, years or even a lifetime, when you have eternity? To give a measly century or more is nothing in the immensity of time.
True love brings us together. Self-concern splits us apart. When we see two lovers quarreling, we know that self-concern has invaded their happiness and poisoned what love may have been there.
A more modern version of love is coming. More and more people are awakening to the meaning of True love.
With True love, forgiveness is effortless, because every moment is imbued with the intent of forgiveness which is True love.
The Art of Forgiveness
True Love in Action
How can we forgive some of the things people do to us? The difficulty we face is one of self-concern. This ego-self stands in the way of everything.
Learn how forgiveness can become effortless when you discover the true meaning of love.
The Art of Forgiveness
- Tharsis Highlands Books - The Art of Forgiveness
In 1977, it started with a miracle and led to a breakthrough in understanding forgiveness.
agape, Wikipedia.org, retrieved 2015:0107.
love, Wikipedia.org, retrieved 2015:0107.
Martin, Rod, The Art of Forgiveness, 2015, Tharsis Highlands Publishing.
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