Body & Mind Seasonal

The Skinny on Love

Love is one of the most talked about words. Certainly, the month of February brings overflowing thoughts of “love”. We all want love, but we can struggle to truly give it. The why of that is something that merits contemplation. When you look around your circle, our town, and the world it is easy to see where love is lacking. We fail daily to love those closest to us and certainly acquaintances and strangers. It seems natural to look for what is wrong, to guard ourselves, to judge and to gossip. Imagine what an amazing community we would live in if we could spread love as easily as we spread negativity and hate. I believe loving each other is our shared purpose. That it is the only thing that matters in the end. So why is it so hard to love? 

I think a good place to start is simply defining love. We can begin with what love is not. It is not the biochemistry that causes butterflies, our hearts to skip a beat, weak knees, or the excitement from pheromones or a dopamine hit.  It is wise to know that those are biochemical responses that our body produces. We get those feelings when our body believes it recognizes a good gene pool to complement ours for reproduction. Our bodies want survival of the species. Our biochemistry is like basic animals. Love goes against that basic biochemistry and our bodies basic instincts of survival and pleasure seeking. Survival and identifying threats are the top priorities of the body, not love. Love is not a feeling. Love is the farthest thing from trying to feel good. It is not selfish at all. Our hearts, not our bodies, but our souls and spirit, are capable of love. It can be hard to understand the difference between biochemistry and the connection of your heart and soul to others. 

So, what is love? Love is a verb. It is a choice, a commitment, and an action. It is not something we give. It is something we grow and nurture.  It requires sacrifice, compromise, and a commitment. These ideas seem to be foreign to our very culture these days. It seems we are in a time of doing what feels good above all else. Feeling good or being “happy” in the moment has become the goal for ourselves and others. That is a sad goal because love will cause you to have honest conversations that usually don’t feel good. Love compels action and honesty. Love requires growth which is most always painful.  Love requires being uncomfortable for a greater connection that leads to future joy. Love is the top tier priority for our soul. Love is patient, kind, slow to anger, forgiving, humble, selfless, honest, and committed. Love must be a daily choice. It is not our natural instinct. 

If we get past our basic biochemistry and instincts, then we must face our egos. Love, connection, belonging and joy are basic needs of our souls. However, we can’t give people what we don’t have. It all starts with loving ourselves, with believing that we are worthy of love. We have all taken hits. We love people that disappoint, hurt, leave, and die. Many times, we blame ourselves and it is hard to be vulnerable again. It takes courage even to show kindness to a stranger. Tremendous bravery to truly choose to love. Uncommon valor to love those that are hateful and that betray or mock us.  We know that if we give love, it will not always be returned. We fear being perceived as weak or needy. Mostly, we feel like we could never be loved if all our failures were transparent. It is so much easier to hide, lie, manipulate, or lash out.

I think we all know that nothing worthwhile comes easy. That is so true of love. The world can seem very loveless. It can feel like swimming upstream to truly love each other. It seems simple but love is the only thing that can change the world. When we let go of shame, forgive ourselves, and see ourselves worthy of love and belonging we are free. We cease to care about what others think. Then we can embrace the true nature of love. It becomes easy to see that the hateful people in the world hate themselves, not you. It becomes easier to give love from your abundance to those that are the hardest to love, but that need it the most. It becomes easier to face the hard conversations that love compels you to have. Love is the only portal to joy and peace. 

We can all choose to love more. It requires work. We must identify what feeds lovelessness in each of us. Things like overwork, fear, doubting our worth, shame, anger, past trauma, lack of purpose, living in survival mode can all be root causes. Then we must identify what feeds our ability to love. It might be reading, creating, meditation, being with nature, time alone, exercise or rest. I hope we all agree that love is needed so much at this moment in time. We are all bombarded by its failure. Lovelessness is the norm in our society. It is prevalent in all aspects of our lives.  Love is overshadowed by the desire for status, instant gratification, wealth, power, influence, and consumption. Love through honesty, kindness, humility, and empathy is not a factor in most of our decisions whether they be on the national, state, or local level, in our work environment or even in family life.

We can all make a difference. We can be brave and answer our greatest calling to love our neighbors. We can be courageous and vulnerable with those closest to us. It requires work but the great irony is that in choosing selflessness we are rewarded with peace and true joy. One small act of kindness can change a person’s life and together we can change the world.