What is Love?

M. Scott Peck (author of “The Road Less Travelled”) once said “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth…Love is as love does. Love is an act of will–namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love”.

We use the word love in many different contexts-from what type of hot drink we prefer, what movies we enjoy, places we like to visit, to mates we enjoy being around. We say “I love this, I love that, I love him/her”. Songs on the radio mix the word love with the idea of attraction towards a mate who promises to fulfill all of our needs. We can even believe that we are “loving” our children when we are enforcing our religion, dreams and ambitions upon them. My question to you is, do you really love who you think you love? Ask yourself these questions…

Would you love this person if he or she didn’t turn out to be the person you wanted him or her to be?

Would you love this person if he or she didn’t meet all of your needs?

Would you love this person if he/she didn’t belong to you?

Would you love this person if your feelings for him/her faded?

Could you accept this person as he/she is if he/she looked at life an entirely different way than you?

Would you love this person if he/she lost his/her looks, riches, status…?

Do your actions prove your love?

Though many of us have been led to believe that love is a feeling, a sense of ownership, or a belief of sameness, it simply is not so.

Love is a choice. Choosing to honor the separateness and the goodness in each other is love. Choosing to act with love to your partner, your children, your neighbor, the world is true love. Many people believe that by enforcing their beliefs and dreams onto their children, that they are loving them. In reality, is that nothing more than striving for immortality by trying to duplicate themselves? Some people believe that once their feelings for their spouse have faded, that they do not love their spouse anymore and should therefore divorce. Marriage is a decision to act with love. It is impossible to feel loving all the time, especially if you are merely focused on what you can get from the other person.

Love is an action that is chosen from moment to moment. We can choose to encourage others, appreciate the best in them, honor their strengths-and in doing so we are loving them. Choosing to criticize, belittle, condescend or otherwise seek to change the ones we supposedly love is not love. I have experienced professions of undying love from people whose actions show only cruelty and selfishness. If you know someone like that, know that even though they may believe they love you, and promise you the moon and the stars, unless their actions prove it, they don’t.

True love is courageous. There is no room for feeding fear and jealousy in true love. True love chooses to see and accept what is, unconditionally. To love wholeheartedly and unabashedly with an open hand. Yes, the price of love is almost certain loss. Embrace it, pain is part of being alive, and love makes life interesting.

You do not own your partner, your children or your friends. You do own your attitude and your actions. That means developing self-discipline and being mindful of your thoughts and motivations. It means releasing your control over others and taking control of yourself.

If you would like to be the kind of person who can truly love others, you must first start with loving yourself. Many people believe that because they do not have loving feelings towards themselves, that means that they cannot love themselves. However, since love is a choice and an action, you can choose to start right now. If you loved yourself, how would you treat yourself? Perhaps you would discipline your thoughts to focus on your strengths, practice forgiveness for your mistakes, eat well, hold yourself accountable to follow your dreams. Perhaps you would begin to act with integrity in areas you have formerly compromised yourself. Perhaps you would take a little extra time getting ready in the morning, or take time to appreciate the sunrise. Choose to love yourself, and the more you do, the more you will easily and truly love others.

As Lao Tzu says in the Tao te Ching, “See the world as yourself, have faith in the way things are, love the world as yourself, then you can care for all things”.

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