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The True Meaning of Love

Updated on August 17, 2017
The true meaning of love has been disputed for centuries.
The true meaning of love has been disputed for centuries. | Source

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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Sri Lankan woman demonstrating her love to her child.
Sri Lankan woman demonstrating her love to her child. | Source

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?"

Flamingos forming a heart, symbol of love.
Flamingos forming a heart, symbol of love. | Source

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.

Amibears, the perfect gift for someone you love?
Amibears, the perfect gift for someone you love? | Source

True Love

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.

A shiny heart symbol. Pure love?
A shiny heart symbol. Pure love? | Source

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

Romeo and Juliet, from Shakespeare's immortal tale of love.
Romeo and Juliet, from Shakespeare's immortal tale of love. | Source

Modern 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

Forgiveness is all about the true meaning of love. Cover by Rod Martin, Jr.
Forgiveness is all about the true meaning of love. Cover by Rod Martin, Jr. | Source

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.


agape,, retrieved 2015:0107.

love,, retrieved 2015:0107.

Martin, Rod, The Art of Forgiveness, 2015, Tharsis Highlands Publishing.


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    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      23 months ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Stas Karimov, thank you for your words of wisdom. May you continue to find True Love and to give the same to all who meet you.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      23 months ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Tamara Yancosky, thank you for your kind words.

    • stas karimov profile image

      Stas Karimov 

      23 months ago from Republic of Belarus

      Perfect love is when you love without your desires. Imperfect love is when you love and expect the same love from someone. Our desires give rise to jealousy. Jealousy stabs.

      Jealousy kills love. Jealousy kills happiness.

    • profile image

      Tamara Moore 

      2 years ago

      Such a lovely article!

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, manatita44. That means a lot to me, coming from you. I've enjoyed reading what you write.

      I agree, learning is a perpetual endeavor.

      Yes, I've lived in Cebu for about 7.5 years.

      You have my prayers, my friend. We are all doing better because of your work.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thank you, Akriti Mattu. I'm glad you liked it.

    • manatita44 profile image


      4 years ago from london

      You're a good man, Rod.

      Learning is an eternal process and I feel certain that we both strive to do this well. Continue ... continue ....

      I have been to Cebu, a beautiful place! Is that where you are? Let us pray for one another. In Love and Light.- Manatita

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 

      4 years ago from Shimla, India

      A wonderful post.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, DDE. Glad you liked it. I keep learning and sharing.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, Bill. And feeling is what spiritual connection is all about. Intellectual musings can only point in that general direction.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A wonderful look at my favorite subject. I would be hard-pressed to define love, but I know it when I feel it. :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I enjoyed learning so much more about True Love.Informative and interesting about what most people take for granted.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, peachpurple. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      great information about the real meaning of true love, I had been searching this answer for years

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, Jodah. I agree, but I'm tempted to call most of the forms "false love," because of their destructive nature. Even the most seemingly benign "love" can be destructive in the long run if it contains any self-concern. Such a distinction could drive some people a little crazy if they get too wrapped up in it. But my approach is merely to become aware of such distinctions and not fret about them. If we know what True Love is, then our internal "radar" will keep us homed in on it and help to move us in that direction.

      The other forms of love (false love) can be destructive, but that can be a good thing, too. How? Because every time we fall for the temptations of self-concern, we create a new distinction that will allow us to learn the difference between false and True Love.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Fascinating question, fpherj48.

      There may well be an infinite variety of this thing we call "love." But I've long wondered if any of them can be of value to us if they are so tainted with self-concern.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, manatita44. In these exciting times, it's nice to be able to connect to so many like-minded people from all over the world. Such a connection and sharing allows me -- and all of us -- to compare notes and to learn from each other. So many times have I made breakthroughs from reading the discoveries of other people. Their viewpoints help me to see past the self-imposed darknesses of my own creation. These are the blind spots that would otherwise have gone unnoticed by me. Thank you for all you continue to do.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thank you, Harishprasad, for your kind words. I find that I still have multiple layers of blindness that keep me from this state of True Love on a permanent basis. But the few miracles I've experienced keep me inspired that such a state can be made permanent. We merely need to shed those bondages, prejudices and conditionings as we discover them.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great insights into the true meaning of love, and different forms of love. Where would we be without it?...there is love in some form in almost every aspect of relationships.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Rod....Superb hub and very fascinating. This has brought questions to me. Do you think it's even possible to list all the various kinds of love? The degrees of love and multiple thousand of ways in which people show their love and share it, nurture it, learn from it??

      Wow....seems to me it is truly an endless ....massive.....astronomical concept.

      UP+++tweeted & pinned.

    • manatita44 profile image


      4 years ago from london

      A noble effort at this sublime subject, and practically at the heart of all my prose and poems. Much peace.

    • Harishprasad profile image

      Harish Mamgain 

      4 years ago from New Delhi , India

      Martin, this is a very beautiful description of true love. Only a few of us are really free to taste such love that you call as agape. Most of us are bound by one or the other kind of bondage, prejudices , conditionings etc. These all act as veil upon our eyes and we cannot see what we ought to see. I loved going through this fantastic hub about love. Thank you very much. Voted up and shared.


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