This, of course, is one of the most important questions in life. But most of us think we know what love is. We think we have love. And we think that what we feel for others is love.
We are shocked when our love is rejected by another (even our kids). We are shocked when our love, instead of making others better, makes them worse. For example, many a lady has thought that her love would make her oaf into a prince, only to see her "love" make him into an angry user or a wimpy slob.
Just look at what the government's love is doing to the welfare class. Look at what the public school's love is doing to the minds and scholarship of today's youth. Look at what the entertainment media's love is doing to the caliber of the populace.
A woman can feel when her husband's embrace is use of her. He calls it love but it feels like abuse.
Therefore, despite all the love songs, romance novels and greeting cards, we, as individuals and collectively, must be missing the boat. Could it be that we don't really know what love is? It could be and it is. If we had real love, then people would be happy, healthy, productive and free. Marriages would be harmonious instead of degenerating into a living hell.
If we really had love, then all the fighting, violence, divorce, alcoholism and drug addiction would be a thing of the past.
I must say: I cannot help the world. The world already has all the help it needs. There are experts, pundits, professors, writers, and helpers of all kinds. There are more churches, more help organizations, more government social service agencies, more books, more support groups, more psychotropic drugs, more advisors and counselors that ever before. People listen and follow them. If the help really helps, good. But the increasing suffering, crime, and divorce rates indicate that something is missing. Somehow the "help" is not really helping.
I cannot help the world, but I can speak or write the words that might wake a few people up to realize that they really don't know what love is.
Only when you admit that you don't know, will you have the searching, sincere attitude by which you might discover what real love really is.
In this brief article, I can only give you a couple of clues. So here goes.
First of all, love is correction. When people are permissive, it feels good; but it is not good for us. At times we all need someone to stop us from hurting ourselves. Not with violence and not with anger, but with a force called love. We can tell when someone cares enough to get involved.
Secondly, love must have understanding in it. When we were younger, people would sometimes give us good advice, but we rejected it because they were talking at us instead of to us.
True love is emotionless. It often has a fatherly quality to it. Love is selfless. Mostly we think we love others when we need them or when they make us feel good. But real love does not need another and therefore does not use them. The drug dealer does not really love the drug addict. And though the drug addict may need the drug dealer, he does not really love the dealer.
Love has truth in it. Any relationship that begins with lies (which most do) is off to a bad start.
Love does not have hate in it. When you are impatient with your children, you have no love for them. When you judge and condemn your husband, you have no love for him. When you resent your wife, you have no love for her.
Perhaps you can see that your egotistical state is naturally selfish. And we are never more selfish than when we are involved in emotions, resentments, and thinking. We are self preoccupied.
We need to wake up. Sometimes a noble person, the sweetness of a child, or a gracious act will awaken us from our selfish self involvement. Perhaps a wonderful old movie or a real life act of selfless courage (such as a rescue operation) will awaken us to love. Sometimes a great tragedy or a close call will awaken us to remember what is really important in life.
Only when we sober up from our emotional soup, stand back and observe things as they are, will we be able to love for the first time. And this love would not feel like love. It would feel like calm observation with concern (but not worry) for the other person. It would include a sincere desire to do the right thing along with the realization that you don't even know what the right thing to do would be. Wanting to do right but realizing one's inadequacy (without resenting it) is the sincere cry of the soul. And it is answered by the Creator.
The Creator's love is first felt as conscience. It is a delicate wordless inner knowing. It makes us feel bad when we see our wrongness. But we also see in our Creator's inner Light that we cannot make ourselves right. This sober seeing becomes sadness, and the sadness becomes mourning, as our soul weeps in regret.
Soon the sadness gives way to gladness, as a right relationship with conscience returns. Before you know it, a situation arises where before we would have done or said what would have supported our ego. This time, we see what the result would be. And we find ourselves not doing or saying the selfish thing.
We find ourself loving by not hating, loving by not using, and loving by not taking advantage. And this not of ourselves, but by the power of God.
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