(ThyBlackMan.com) Look up the word ‘love’ in the dictionary. For the most part it is defined as a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. However, to a man (or woman) when asked the definition of this word, rarely do we provide this generic answer. Try it. Text ten people you know and ask them to define the word love. Almost certainly you will garner ten varying responses. Is it possible that no one knows exactly what love entails? Or that we view love only as to how it relates to us singularly? But what if the person we need to love are we? How do we achieve self-love? Once we unearth the secret to loving ourselves, then and only then can we incorporate that learning into how we love others.
There have been countless quotes about love. Dr. Seuss was quoted as saying; ‘You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is better than your dreams.’ Andre’ Gide in his collection of essays titled ‘Autumn Leaves’ muses ‘It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.’ And Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu was credited with stating, ‘Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.’ One can even surmise that love in each of these quotes is being used in varying forms. In the first quote, it is perceived as the lightness that describes the initial feeling of a new love. The second is the quantification of what we give out in order to receive love. And the third could be depicted as what happens when we truly understand another love for us and in turn reciprocate it without shame or attachment of thought. It is letting our hearts lead us into and through our love.
Let’s go back to the ten people you asked to characterize loving another individual. What words did they use? Trust? Honesty? Loyalty? Respect? Those all sound good. Now look them up. Love is never mentioned in any of their definitions. Loyalty comes the closest, as it is a synonym to devotion, which contains the definition ‘committed love’. Still, we are left with an open interpretation of what love means to us. Refer to the four aforementioned terms in question. So many of us use them to describe love. Why? How did we come to associate them with love? Are they words we heard others use to express their own love or another’s love for them? Are they merely an expectation from someone who claims they love us?
Charlie, a character from Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, gives us this to consider when he is questioned as to whom we choose to love.
‘We accept the love we think we deserve.’
Take a second to think ponder this quote. What makes us think we deserve love to begin with? Is it because we give it? We should ask ourselves what it is exactly that we give. One could even counter this statement by saying that we often think we deserve more love than what we are capable of giving. So while we more than willing to accept all the (good) love given to us, is it unfair to inquire, ‘Do we truly deserve it?’
It is ironic that we often we seek from others what we cannot provide ourselves. Many of us don’t trust ourselves. We second guess ourselves and regret choices we’ve made. We aren’t honest with ourselves about what we desire, and if we are, we often still don’t know how to achieve it. We aren’t loyal to ourselves and possess faith in what we are and that anyone who intends on loving us should do so based upon that solely. And we don’t respect ourselves. There is always the thinking that we are not enough of something. And if we can see it, then anyone who attempts to love us must be able to see our ‘faults’ as well.
Go back to the ten people you asked about love. Now ask them if they love themselves. Most of them will unequivocally respond yes. Some might even be offended that one would even insist upon asking them such an asinine question. The real answer is that most people don’t know. Sounds even more asinine, right? It is not. Yet, rather than subject themselves to the reality of delving deep inside of a person who they only thought they knew, they would rather play it safe and be who they’ve allowed everyone around them to believe they are for so long. It is difficult to become someone else after convincing himself or herself for far too long that they are this person as well.
The only way to find love is to be love. It is to love oneself first. However, it does not comprise pride, conceit or arrogance. That counteracts love and inclusion of any of those characteristics will ultimately detract from others loving you. It is not taught. It is created. Not through an epiphany or a façade. It is fashioned through the sheer desire to acknowledge everything about oneself and determine that it is indeed loveable. It is not about the subtraction of individuality. It is the addition of commonality. It is the recognition that there is someone out there just like you who might need to observe you as nothing more than your genuine self in an effort to find his or her own authenticity. Thomas Aquinas expressed it perfectly with the following:
‘Well-ordered self-love is right and natural.’
There is nothing wrong with loving oneself. There is everything wrong with not. Alas, it is the only way that anyone else will ever be able to love us. We are the only ones that own the wisdom on how to love ourselves. When we possess that information it simplifies our love relationships. Not because others get us, rather we grasp ourselves. Often when love relationships fail, one or both mates can be heard saying, ‘They just didn’t understand me.’ This may be the easy way to arrive at a justification for the failure of a relationship, but what is often a more authentic explanation for the downfall is that person lacking an understanding of self.
Do not underestimate the value of self-love. It ‘is the source of all our other loves’ (Pierre Corneille). More importantly, it is the only thing that will lead us to what we all seek from nearly the day we arrive in this existence. That is, unconditional, unrequited, eternal love from someone that we desire to supply the same. Love only fails when there was never love present to begin with. Remember those ten people? One of them should have been you. Now ask yourself if you are prepared to be for love.
Staff Writer; Bruce M. Williams
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