If you seek to be loved, you may be disappointed because you cannot control others. You cannot ask for love because it is not a favor, it is a gift. But if you seek to be love, if you seek to become the gift, you will succeed. So, be a pillar of light, a fountain of love, a source of comfort. Embrace others with your heart. Even if you cannot help, the mere act of loving lightens their burdens, for they find consolation in your concern. When you follow this path, the love you willingly give will be returned to you. You will become loved without seeking it.
But first we need to love ourselves. Can we feed the hungry if we have no food? Can we shelter the homeless if we have no shelter? Can we give money to the needy if we don’t have any? How, then, can we love others, if we don’ t first love ourselves? The cartoonist, author, and speaker Andrew Matthews explains this idea in his own brilliant way:
“People who do not love themselves can adore others, because adoration is making someone else big and ourselves small. They can desire others, because desire comes out of a sense of inner incompleteness, which demands to be filled. But they can not love others, because love is an affirmation of the living growing being in all of us. If you don’t have it, you can’t give it.”
So, forgive yourself. Be patient with yourself. When you do so, you will be able to forgive others and be patient with them. When you learn to love yourself, not for who you are but despite who you are, you will be able to treat others in the same manner. You are not perfect and neither is anyone else, but love can be. Learn to be at home with yourself and you soon will be able to be a source of comfort to others.
You have a reason to love yourself. There is a Divine Spark glowing within you. And you are part of the magnificence we call the universe. Yet, don’t become preoccupied with yourself. If all you have in the room of your mind is mirrors, you will only be aware of yourself and your own needs. Replace some of those mirrors with windows so you can discover the world outside and the needs of others. For it is in loving that we unfold, mature, and reach our potential.
What is love? It is care, concern, and compassion for all those we meet because they are our brothers and sisters. When we give our time, devotion, and energy to others, we give the greatest gift of all, ourselves. Love is an idea. Service is how that idea is expressed. Love is a mother kissing her child’s wound, a teacher inspiring a student, and a spouse encouraging their mate. It is solace and encouragement, kindness and tenderness. It is a listening ear, a sympathetic heart, a welcoming gaze, and a tender touch. It is unconditional acceptance, for how can you love someone you try to change? Besides being an invaluable gift to others, love is a gift to ourselves because it adds meaning and purpose to our lives.
St. Augustine (354 ~ 430) describes the appearance of love: “It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” Love is also the great healer. It heals conflict, hatred, and injustice. For “Darkness can not drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Martin Luther King Jr., 1929 ~ 1968)
What about love between couples? There are two secrets to a successful marriage: 1) Pick the right mate. 2) Be the right mate. Love is not a feeling; it’s a decision. It’s not about “You make me feel good”, but about “I am committed to you because I respect and admire you. I want to be more like you. You are someone I can trust. You will make a great parent, friend, and partner.” Love is not about sharing a generic “I love you,” but about being specific, such as, “Honey, I admire your dedication to our family, what a great mother (father) you are!” Or, “Thank you for working so hard to help pay all our bills.”
In expressing our love, words like “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” play an important role, but they always go with action. We prove our love by lessening the burden of our partner by helping with family chores and responsibilities. But it’s about volunteering our services without being asked. And when problems arise, love always finds a way, but indifference finds an excuse. Also, keep your relationship sparkling with humor. For example, here are two delightful descriptions of what it’s like to be in love, written by poet, author, and award winning journalist Judith Viorst:
“Love is much nicer to be in than an automobile accident, a tight girdle, a higher tax bracket, or a holding pattern over Philadelphia.”
“Infatuation is when you think that he’s as sexy as Robert Redford, as smart as Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen, and as athletic as Jimmy Conners. Love is when you realize that he’s as sexy as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Conners, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic as Henry Kissinger, and nothing like Robert Redford — but you’ll take him anyway.”
Getting serious again, yes, we want to be a fountain of love for all those we meet, but love begins at home and its importance should never be underestimated. Here’s a story that was reported elsewhere, “A man approached Mother Teresa and said, ‘Mother, I want to do something great for God, but I don’t know what. Should I start a school, be a missionary in a foreign land, build up a charitable agency?’ He had great visions. Mother Teresa looked at him closely, with kindness, and responded: ‘What you need to do is make sure that no one in your family goes unloved.’” Something else Mother Teresa (1910 ~ 1997) shared with us is the following, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
One of the small things we can do with great love is to tell our friends and family members exactly how much they mean to us. Far too many times the words are left unsaid, left until it is too late to say them. Don’t let this happen to you, or if it already has, don’t let it happen again.
Over a hundred years ago, an unknown author left us with a quotation that has inspired countless numbers of people over the years. Whether it’s your first or one hundredth time to see it, let it inspire you to action. “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”