The many faces of love

December 10, 2011 Sandra Dawes

Love is a wonderful emotion that we all seek to experience.  It comes in many forms; the love a parent has for a child, the love one feels for a romantic partner, or the love we have for friends and family.  We have all said the words “I love you”, but have we really thought about what that means?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of love I’d like to focus on is: a) unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) the fatherly concern of God for human kind (2): brotherly concern for others b: a person’s adoration for God.  To me, this captures the essence of what love truly is.  God is love, and that love, in my opinion, goes beyond romance or the love of a good book or song.

Love is a notion that many crave as badly as a drug.  Like a drug, the desire to obtain and keep love makes people do some wild and crazy things.  We endanger ourselves, we try to alter who we are and we use it as a means of control.  How often have you heard or said yourself “if you love me you would/wouldn’t…”?  Do we really believe that any an action by another that displeases us in an indication of a lack of love, or do we use it to make that person feel guilty for denying us our fix?

We seem to spend a great deal of time searching for love or trying to prove our love.  Parent lavish their children with gifts to show their love, children do and say what is expected of them to gain their parents’ love and acceptance and lovers put their needs aside and prioritize their partners as a means to illustrate their love.  But are any of these things good enough?  It seems like no matter how many sacrifices are made in the name of love, we are still left wanting more!

That’s the reason why I chose the definition of love above, one which talks about the love of God.  After reading A Course in Miracles, I now understand that God’s love is unconditional and that this love resides in all of us.  The Course also teaches that God is love and therefore, God resides in all of us as well.  It is that understanding that has given me a whole new perspective on love and makes me wonder how many of us truly know what love is?

While it may seem paradoxical for me to say that the love of God resides in all of us and then ask if we know what love is, I don’t think it is.  A Course in Miracles teaches that we experience the opposite of love in our lives because we believe we are separate from God and each other.  That notion, for me, has explained so much of my own experiences with love in the past.  How could I say I loved anyone when I had no grasp of the idea of connecting with the love in me – I didn’t even know it existed!  If we can’t love ourselves, how do we expect to find it in or with others?

This brings me back to the concept of unconditional love, and another reason why I question whether most of us have truly experienced love.  So much of the love that we give is based on conditions.  If this wasn’t the case there wouldn’t be so many divorce battles or relationships with family and friends that can go sour at the turn of a hat.  If we really loved the people in our lives, we would be able to let them go with love instead of resentment and bitterness.  We have become so conditioned to making others responsible for our happiness that we get angry when they do things that we don’t like.  The reality is that no one is responsible for our happiness but us.  If we really think about it, how many of us have never had a desire that didn’t fit with the desires of friends or family or a romantic partner.  Why does it have to be a choice between your happiness and theirs?  If we truly loved each other, wouldn’t we be supporting one another in finding our own happiness rather than giving that power to someone else?

The fact that we have complicated the idea of love so much illustrates to me the power of the ego, as well as how insane it truly is.  Even as I write this, I am embarrassed to think about how unhappy I have made myself in my search for love outside of me!  How is it possible that we have made something so beautiful become something so hard to actualize?

As we approach the start of a new year, I am making a pledge to myself to be more loving to myself and to those around me.  No strings attached and no expectations.  I want to experience what real love is, love without pain, fear or hurt – unconditional love, just as God intended. ♥

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