C. S. Lewis said that we often confuse love with the desire to be loved. But when I can truly love someone or something, things change. I change. And people and things around me seem to change as well. I lose fear and selfishness to the degree I truly love.
Love, true love, entails and requires commitment, personal growth, and forgiveness for others and for the self.
The commitment of love requires time and thus, by definition, it requires making choices and even saying no to some things so you can say yes to others. While love is infinite, time is not. . This means love is selective. We can love everyone, but we cannot give our time to everyone. This doesn’t mean I have to schedule my day, but I have found that writing yearly, monthly, daily, and even hourly goals can help me manage time and keep me focused
Love requires focus and presence. It requires self-awareness, knowing how I am feeling at each moment, so that I don’t let my feelings overtake or rule me and thus keep me from truly loving.
Love requires order. Without order it is hard to be present or use finite time effectively. Love doesn’t mean that my kitchen or car always have to be clean, that my paperwork and workspace in order, or that my bills are all paid on time, but those things also help very much. The more order there is in my life, the more effectively I can deal with the chaos life can bring. In others words, I am more free to love.
Love requires, or perhaps causes, saying no to some things, many things, most of all to the needy self that is never happy and can never have enough. This allows saying yes to others and to the true self, the self that is peaceful.
Love is often like a job. It is not always easy or fun or smooth, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. What’s bad is the illusion that it should always be easy. Robert Glover affirms this in his book, No More Mr. Nice Guy. He defines “nice guys” as men who live out of fear, out of a need for approval from others, rather than from a place of true love, courage, and commitment. “Nice guys,” says Glover, believe that life and love can and should always be easy if they just do “the right thing”, whatever that means. Nice guys believe that they can and should always please others. Nice guys therefore might keep secrets, take abuse, fail to discipline their children, or fail to take care of themselves, because they think they are creating a problem-free life. But life and love are full of unexpected setbacks…and joys. By avoiding problems, they create more problems and miss potential growth and joy.
Love is what puts me in this chair, writing for my Muse.
Love is what motivates me to create goals.
Love is what motivates me to study.
Love is what gets me to the dentist or the doctor for checkups and work.
Love is what causes me to relax and read something I enjoy.
Love is what motivates me to do my job to the best of my ability.
Love is what motivates me to save money for the future.
Now here’s the thing: Fear can do all those things as well. But the problem with that is once the fear is gone, I am no longer motivated to do the right thing. Fear causes me to do what is necessary and expedient. Love causes me to do what is needed and excellent. We do so many things to win approval, make money, and keep others happy. But without changing the activity, I can simply decide to love God, love my Muse, love my children and it doesn’t matter if I’m loved back because love doesn’t ask for anything in return, not even love.
The only one I can ask and expect love from is myself. When I do, I am at peace and it is no effort to love others. Then suddenly there are no problems. As Eckhart Tolle says in The Power of Now, “There are only situations to be dealt with.” Love is no longer work as an act of drudgery (which wasn’t really love in the first palce), but rather as an act of creativity, like artwork or writing.
When I love myself I am willing to look at ways I can change without being too self-absorbed or unforgiving of my failings. I can accept criticism, however well or poorly given as an opportunity for growth. At the same time I can completely accept myself for who I am at the moment, who God made me to be.
This is not the final word on love. As I said, “Love is infinite.” I don’t have all the answers and I don’t love perfectly. I just know seasons of growth and seasons of pruning alternate, creating in each of us if we allow it, the ability to love more truly. Love, true love, is possible any time and anywhere. Love is why I Get Started and Keep Going.