“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu
It seems that love may be one of the more misunderstood characteristics of the human condition (perhaps right behind happiness). I know. It’s a lot like eating chocolate and still not knowing what it tastes like; it hardly seems possible that something so universally proclaimed can be so widely misunderstood.
And yet every day couples bicker over it and talk about how they need more of it and break up over what they felt was a lack of it.
How many cheesy romantic comedies, cheesier love songs and animated Disney movies have to be written and poorly acted in to finally understand the nature of this thing called love?
And how can something so many claim to have fallen so madly into at first sight end so frequently in broken hearts and flat tires?
Love, Disney Style
The fact is that Disney and the slate of romantic comedies Hollywood spits out every year does the cause of love considerable harm. It sets the bar of love not just too high, but outside the very definition of what love actually is.
What we’re left with after all the spitting is a Disneyfied version of love that seems (in lyrical overkill) a little too synonymous with a teen-aged, happily-ever-after state of never-ending tingly feelings.
But “happily-ever-after” reduces an irreducibly complex thing to 3 words rendered no more meaningful than the expectation of being “warm-ever-after” or “funny-ever-after” or “anything-ever-after.”
What Does Love Mean?
So what is love then? What does love really mean? And how can we become better at sustaining it or even recognizing the thing when we’re unexpectedly mugged in a back alley by it?
Well, I contacted some of the internet’s personal development superstars with just such questions in mind. Here are the responses they emailed me (in no particular order and with links to more of their thoughts on the topic).
The Meaning of LOVE from around the Blogosphere
Love can be Messy
“Over the years, we form a lot of ideas about what love is, oftentimes based on unrealistic hopes and standards. We learn what we think it’s supposed to look like, and we may find ourselves feeling frustrated when reality falls short. It often does.
“Love can be messy, confusing, and imperfect, just like us and life itself. Love doesn’t fail because we mess up from time to time. It fails when we fail to accept that we all do, and then think something is wrong instead of making things right. Love isn’t life without conflict. It’s about wanting and working to overcome it together.”
Lori Deschene of Tiny Buddha
Love Changes Everything
“Love is the cornerstone of everything. I mean everything. You want to build a business that changes the world? Fall in love with your customers and how you can genuinely help them. You want deep friendships? Fall in love with helping them and making their lives better in any way you can. Business, personal, whatever – love changes everything. Spin that up with some compassion and everything starts to change.”
Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend
Love is a Never-Ending Practice
“Love is peace with self. Not a goal, not an outcome, not one discovery that reveals one permanent truth. Love is a never-ending practice in which you honor your soulful wants and needs and continually radiate your authentic truth outward, outward, outward — in your actions and your words and your simple being — into the lives of others.”
Dave Ursillo of daveursillo.com
“A desire for love is one of the core principles of our existence. And the desire is not only to feel loved by another but to share love with another — to give and receive in equal measure so that both people can thrive and live to their fullest potential. That is the essence of a mature, loving connection.
“You cannot create a loving relationship within the context of fear, ego-based desires, and unmet childhood needs. Nor can you sustain a relationship without the mutual willingness to place your love and respect at the forefront of your life together.
“Of course this is often easier said than done. Our lives and emotions are complicated and potential landmines are everywhere. Finding and sustaining love is a work in progress — a shifting, undulating canvas that requires the steady hand of commitment to its ongoing creation.
“When you are committed to love, to real and mutually-fulfilling love, it will find its way to you, because nothing less will be acceptable. It will require some inner work on your part, and it may require some pain and heartache. But once you prepare yourself to find love, you may well discover it at your doorstep.”
Barrie Davenport of Live Bold and Bloom
“The true kind of love involves attention, awareness, discipline, effort, and being able to truly care about someone and sacrifice for them, continuously, in countless petty little unsexy ways, every day. You put your arms around them and love them regardless, even when they’re not so lovable. And of course they do the same for you.”
Marc Chernoff of Marc and Angel Hack Life
“Love the people around you. But don’t forget to devote time and energy to self-love too. Focus on being kinder to yourself when you stumble. Forgive yourself for things that happened in the past. Invest in yourself by learning and growing. And find a minute each day to just be still and appreciate yourself and the good things you do. By doing so you will spread happiness within yourself and around you to the people you love.”
Henrik Edberg of The Positivity Blog
“Love has no leering eyes, nor gives despising looks. Love expresses gratitude for what it has and does not hunger after what others have. Love weeps at injustice. It does not discard easily, but rather cherishes the moment and stays for the long run.
“Love cannot and will not falter. Love is a force that can withstand hurricane, flood, drought or cyclone. Love survives war, tyranny and anarchy. Love cannot be overcome and cannot be undone–for it thinks of others. Love is a servant always seeking to serve, and because of that, it rules supreme.
“In giving, it receives. In living, it believes that no matter what should seek to pluck it from the earth – from it, seeds will fall and more love will grow. For LOVE is an eternal seed-flame that cannot be extinguished.”
Peter G. James Sinclair of Motivational Memo
Love is a Habit
“Love is a habit and a discipline that you must practice daily even when you don’t feel like it. It is not simply an emotion because emotions come and go. Love is an active commitment one makes to another for better or for worse. It persists. It endures. It struggles.
“Love doesn’t give up even when it isn’t getting anything in return. It hopes. It forgives. It persists. Deciding to love someone is a big undertaking. Of course, what would life be without it?
“Do you need love? Then make the choice today to love others daily in the way I’ve described here. I guarantee you that you will be loved in return. It might not come exactly as you expect or hope, but it will come. May your life be filled with love and joy on Valentine’s Day and beyond!”
Jeff Nickles My Super Charged Life
Welcome Love when it Appears
“Since it’s Valentines Day I’ll share things some things I’ve learned from my relationship with my wife. We’re still together and happy after 8 years and 4 kids so I figure we must be doing something right…. I met my wife in 2004. At the time I was traveling overseas and had just come out of a long-term relationship, so a serious relationship was the last thing on my mind.
“But there was no denying the instant connection and as we spent time together it became obvious we belonged together. She followed me back to Australia, and three years later we returned to Canada to live. Being from different countries, especially two that are so far apart, hasn’t always been easy as we’ve both has to go through the immigration process and also spent extended amounts of time away from family. But as I think about the happy memories we share, especially those relating to our four boys, I wouldn’t have things any other way.
“So what have I learned? Welcome love into your life when it appears. Sometimes relationships require work and compromise, but for the right person it will be worth it. And lastly, don’t take your significant other for granted – show them that you love them each and every day.”
Peter Clemens of The Change Blog
Be the Love you Want
“I think when we consistently put ourselves in a state of love or when we become love, love will find us. We are either in a fearful state or a loving state at all times. These are the only two emotions. All other emotions are derivatives of love or fear.
“When I am depressed, sad, and angry or hurt, I am living in fear. If I am feeling joy, peace, appreciation or happiness, I am living in a state of love.
“I would suggest that if you want to find a loving partner it’s a good idea to “be” the love you want to find. This doesn’t mean that a loving partner will come into your life. That may be dependent upon your soul’s plan for this lifetime.
- If we want love, we need to open our hearts to receive.
- If we want love, we need to be more giving.
- If we want love, we need to be more loving.
“Become the love that you seek and love will surround you, enfold you, protect you, and lead you.”
Tess Marshall of The Bold Life
The Gift of Love
“Love is spiritual nourishment that allows the soul to soar. When you learn to truly love, with no if’s or buts added, you not only nourish yourself but you nourish humanity by elevating the collective consciousness of human dignity.
“The more you love, the higher you lift yourself up on all three planes of existence – physically you feel more vibrant, psychologically you feel clean and whole, and at the highest existence of pure beingness, you exude a fragrance of aliveness that is preciously beautiful for all of life to embrace. Now your love becomes an incredible gift to all that exists.
“If you want to taste the true experience of untainted existence, then give yourself to loving everything … and begin with yourself.”
Rob White of RobWhite.com
And so love turns out to be something much more mature and much more profound than lust or emotional dependency or insecure jealousy or temporary insanity.
It turns out that love requires deep personal growth to attain it at it’s truest level. It’s a sturdier condition of the soul, something that shines within us because of who we are, not because of who its object is.
Love is not measured in the currency of beating hearts or slight nausea or compulsive desire. It is the product of our character. It is the unsexy effort at treating others lovingly. It is the freedom to be and the freedom to allow. It is the will to reach and the will to be reached. It is the vulnerability of openness and the strength of commitment.
We grow love by giving it away free of charge. Not the lusty sort of pseudo-love that some give away to any pair of willing legs, but the heart and soul, the service and kindness, the compassion and forgiveness and honor and respect that is the substance of real love.
Love is not the absence of desire; it’s just that it is so much more than mere desire.
Love grows as we extend it. When we withhold it from others, we cripple it, bury it in the mud of a weak character, suffocate its ability to change our lives and those who are touched by it. But as love grows, our souls grow. Our hearts grow. Our lives extend and expand and enrich and come alive in amazing ways.
So this Valentine’s Day, reach a little higher and dig a little deeper and shake off the Disney definition of love to adopt the deeper brand … and measure what starts to happen to your relationships from this Valentine’s Day onward.
What does love mean to you?
Let us know in the comments below!
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