“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” ~Morrie Schwartz
So often is love considered to be an emotion that is born of unknown origins that we forget love is labour. Love in its highest form is a verb. It requires action. It requires effort. It demands that both giver and receiver indulge in the act of loving to improve the life of each other.
“Love never reasons but profusely gives; gives, like a thoughtless prodigal, its all, and trembles lest it has done too little.” ~Hannah More
This giving does not come easily. The roots of this tree have to spread wide and deep for the fruit to bear long and sweet. Otherwise there is the danger of the tree succumbing to the harsh winds of life. We must train ourselves to practice love. Khushwant Singh, on a visit to the Missionaries of Charity, could not bring upon him the love to care for the sick, old people that Mother Teresa would smilingly care for and so he put forth his question, “How can you care and love them?”. To which Mother replied, “I see Jesus everywhere.” Mother Teresa was living her own words, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” And she was not able to do this because she started with an ocean of unending love inside her. No, she started with labour and will. The ocean was created along the way. And she laboured to make the ocean grow everyday. Through dark hours and staggering odds. Her love was not an emotion to be enjoyed while it lasted. Her love was a creation nurtured with labour.
The most satisfying description of love I have come across was in Scott Peck‘s book ‘The Road Less Traveled‘. Scott defines love as “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” The two pages that follow this rather simple definition contain a persuasive and uplifting discussion of love and labour. I find Scott’s use of “spiritual growth” as a tool to judge love somewhat exalted. For me, the desire to provide happiness and/or help is enough to qualify as love. Kindness, then, is an ingredient of love.
And one need not look so far and high as Mother Teresa for exemplary love. Somewhere around you is a mother that displays the same love, though in the restricted sphere of her children. When a child is conceived, the mother knows nothing of the child’s attributes. The child has done nothing for the mother. The child has not and cannot return any love until it is born and for a long time after that. And yet the mother will make significant sacrifices, smilingly take great pains for the betterment of her child. Yes, there is an attachment born out of possession here, but still, the expression of love happens without any real reciprocation by the child.
“Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” ~Robert Heinlein
But, as we know from our own lives, it is uncommonly difficult to love. A loving soul is characterized by kindness and humility. A gentle disposition, a desire to help, and a desire to stay the course when there are no obvious reasons, are all ingredients of a loving soul. John Harrigan succinctly said, “People need loving the most when they deserve it the least.” In other words, what he is saying is that sometimes you will have to be able to love even without wanting to. And this is exactly where labour comes into the picture. It is easy to love someone who is ‘lovable’. But to be able to love any soul at any time, requires tremendous empathy and will. Most of us, including me, do not have the ability entirely. However, all of us have it in varying degrees. The more your capacity to love, the greater goodness you see around you.
I see love as a strong silk rope. Made with the strands of empathy, forgiveness, kindness, humility, goodness, acceptance, and hope. I believe true love is born out of the presence and practice of these faculties. We start with some mix of these traits and gain love. We then use that love and create more of each faculty, which in turn creates more love. The more you practise love, the more love you have to give. Such a beautiful cycle. True are the words of Mother Teresa. Once you know this, you also know that it is unwise to wait for love to happen first and everything else to follow. Love is not some magical, illogical, inexplicable emotion. That is infatuation. No, we start with some basic ingredients and cook love along the way. And then we serve love, with love.
“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek & find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi
Love is extremely self nourishing. Before your love benefits anyone, it benefits you. May no day pass without your soul being drenched in the healing powers of love.