WHAT LOVE IS©
Norman W Wilson, PhD
Because of the current world situation; one of bigotry, vitriol, racism, and disease I thought it was correct to revisit a talk I gave five years ago. Let it be a reminder that we should all be seekers of love; not hate.
I have two questions for you to consider. First, is trust earned or given? Second, is love earned or given? And since I have two questions, I must confess to a third: What is the connection between Trust and Love?
So what does it mean to trust, to love? The issue probably is as old as is humankind, certainly as old as philosophers have been around. In the Christian religion, the first Adam trusted Eve. He had no reason not to trust her. Sampson had no reason not to trust Delilah. Caesar had no reason not to trust Brutus. Each of these found their trust betrayed. What happens in a relationship when trust is betrayed? Love flies out the window.
To love, one must trust the other. Violate trust; it and love are lost perhaps never to return. If they do return, they may not be on the same secure footing as before. How do you get them back? Earn them! You have to make regular installments just as you would in a bank account. It is trust that engenders harmony and peace in a relationship; it is trust that engenders love in a relationship.
Dr. Robert Fry reminds us that we must do all we can to create a love-based reality. In doing so, we must realize it is a "moment to moment affair." Meaning, it has to be worked. So what is love? The word love has been so overused that its meaning is nearly vacuous.
The muses tell us that "love is a many-splendored thing," "love is what makes the world go around," and "it's the greatest thing since sliced bread" but none tell us what love is. And neither do the great romantic poets of Byron, Keats, and Shelley. Love is an unconditional commitment. And because it is, many folks have reservations about such a commitment and place restrictions upon love's natural flow. A conditional love requires that one of the partners do something that pleases the other or enhances the other's stature. On the simplest level, when a child picks up its toy from the floor and puts it away and is told by its mother, "How sweet, I love you, honey" that child receives the message that that type of behavior is required to earn love. People who are perfectionists and those who are people-pleasers most likely have only experienced conditional love and have never felt love. They have not experienced unconditional commitment. What a box that is!
In Christianity one is reminded that "faith to move mountains" is worthless without love. Even philanthropy without love is lacking in spirituality. In love, we give to others. We call this philanthropy and it is this same essence that we should hold for our interaction with each other. When one loves, there has been a choice—an expressed commitment that in turn generates love for one's self.
Do not confuse commitment with altruism. Altruism dictates that you sacrifice yourself for the benefit of others; that is, their needs claim your actions and behavior and in some cases, even your life. A giving love, however, enables you to achieve your value within relationships with other people. It does not rest upon the misfortunes of others; whereas, altruism is directed by that fact. The simple act of giving someone the benefit of the doubt creates an avenue for benevolent behavior, the opportunity to demonstrate the value of unconditional love. A commitment to a personal behavior that derives value from life itself and from interaction with others is a reflection of love. Matthew Fox has said, "Compassion is not a moral commandment but a flow and overflow of the fullest human and divine energies." That's love.
If you want to build a house of wood you must also provide hollow space within that house that is empty of wood, thus, both wood and the absence of wood are required to build that house. Building a loving relationship is similar. The builder of love must bring values (the wood) and time (the space) to the relationship. To do otherwise results in a relationship that won't last. You cannot be as the shifting sand if you want a loving, personal, and lasting relationship. If you are, there is no permanence. That love you so much want will have slip through your fingers before you have a chance to grasp it, to taste it, to savor its delicacy.
The late syndicated columnist Jim Bishop wrote an inspiring essay called Love Something Apart in which he said, Love is giving, it is the unification of two persons into one It is possession and being possessed. It is the only thing that must be resurrected every day."
Love allows us to experience life and to connect in a positive way. Denying its existence and its experience, and choosing not to practice it, denies your spirituality. And that is a sin! Denying your spirituality is a damnation of all that is human.
Buddhists tell us to pay careful attention to the other person, to listen for what is actually being said so that we can recognize the source of what is being felt. If you do that, you can and will respond with care and compassion. And isn't that love? Of course, it is.
In closing, I want to share a comment by Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda. He wrote, "Real existence, real knowledge, and real love are eternally connected with one another, the three in one; where one is, the others must be"
Love is, after all, a magnificent obsession! Don’t give it up for hate, bigotry, and vitriol.
©Norman W. Wilson, PhD. Presented May 6, 2015. Church of Metaphysical Humanism