Someone once said, “Love, like death, changes everything.” I have long been a student of love. I have a magnet on my fridge that says, “to love well is to live well,” and I believe it is as simple as that (though far from easy.) I am comforted by the thought that to learn how to love well is a discipline that can be mastered like any other skill. I think one of the barriers to loving well is that much about love is not understood– such as the fact that love is not just a feeling but rather a commitment. In The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck says, ”We do not have to love. We choose to love. Love is as love does… True love is an act of will. The desire to love is not love itself….. Love is not a feeling. A genuinely loving individual will often take loving and constructive action toward a person he consciously dislikes. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love.”
Ethan Fromm, in his book The Art of Loving says, ”Love is an activity, a power of the soul, an attitude, an orientation of character. Most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty. They believe that all that is necessary for them to love is to find the right object – and everything goes by itself afterwards. This attitude can be compared to that of a man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he has just to wait for the right object, and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it.”
We all know people that seem to love everyone around them with the same ease as they draw breath. Like anyone who has mastered an art, they make it look so easy. What an inspiration they are to everybody lucky enough to know them! There is a real power there that you can feel just by being in the same room with them.
One more thought. On a quest to be a more loving person we cannot overlook the importance of self- love. Again Peck writes, “Since I am human and you are human to love humans means to love myself as well as you. We are incapable of loving another unless we are capable of loving ourselves just as we are incapable of teaching our children self-discipline unless we ourselves are self-disciplined.”
On February 9th our Multi-generational service is dedicated to the importance of loving ourselves. As Unitarian Universalists our first principle is respect for the inherent worth of souls. We are getting ahead of ourselves if we think we can extend the kindness of acceptance to others if we cannot give the same to ourselves. We need to love ourselves with the same commitment that we love any other person in our lives. And what a privilege it is to love ourselves and others! If I had to choose between being well-loved or loving well I would choose the latter because of the purpose and joy it brings to my life. I’ll close with the famous words of Kahil Gibran, “Think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.” May love direct each of our courses now and always.
Janen Wright, Director of Lifespan Faith Development