What Do You Mean By Love?Feb 14, 2022
As today is Valentine's Day, I thought I'd add to the chorus and write about love.
Love is one of the more complex subjects we humans have, and there are about as many definitions as there are individuals on this earth.
I've often wondered how one word could cover such a wide array of emotions, from the unconditional love a parent has for their children, to romantic love between partners, to a broader love of our fellow humans.
We know that love can be conditional, but why is it not always that way? Some parents offer love no matter what their child may do, may be going through, or may be putting their parents through, while some parents will disown their children for things that are quite widely accepted today, even for loving someone of the same biological sex or a different race or religion.
Does it make sense to stop loving your child because they love someone? Shouldn't that be something wonderful, something which the parent should be proud of?
Similarly, unconditional love can exist within a romantic relationship, but it demands great emotional maturity, self-knowledge, and self-assurance.
People either grow together or they grow apart. There is no other option. When people grow together things are usually easier and require little extra work to keep the relationship strong.
But when people begin to drift apart, both parties must first make the decision that they value the relationship and that it is worth working on, and then they must use empathy and understanding to learn where they may need to compromise in order to keep the relationship strong.
Recently my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, so I speak from experience. I wouldn't believe anyone who told me that after 30, 40, or 50 years, they did not compromise in some way to make their partner happy and to keep the relationship strong.
In fact, in many ways, the only way to make a relationship last for such a long time is to let go of parts of yourself and replace them with parts of your partner. As the relationship carries on, you must both sacrifice something to keep things going.
That said, the decision to stay together isn't always the right one, and more couples today are making the decision to part ways, whether on good terms or bad. Neither way is good or bad—it depends upon the individuals involved and what they want.
What about love towards our fellow citizens? Not just our neighbors or those with whom we share a nation, a language, a religion, or an ethnic background.
All of us in this world have both similarities and differences. It is okay for us to love each other despite our differences. In fact, we can actually love each other because of our differences. Our differences are what make for rich experience. We see this most clearly in the universal love of cuisine, travel, and culture.
There may be things about a certain country or culture that we find disturbing or distasteful, but is that really a reason not to love these people? Is this any different from the parent who disowns their child because they are uncomfortable with the child's homosexuality?
It is far better to seek to understand others—both their similarities and differences. When we approach such circumstances with curiosity and empathy, we learn and grow ourselves in important ways.
Does it make sense to love (or hate) someone based on their beliefs? I don't think so.
Are you with me?
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