What is love? Love is different things to different people. Love has many different definitions. Finding one that meets your needs and that you can live out every day is important. A definition that I have found that meets my needs is this: Love is choosing to humbly find ways to holistically nurture the true self of both ourself and others. I have found that this definition brings balance to self-love and other-love.
I came to this definition by starting out with M. Scott Peck’s definition of love. He states that love is, “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” This definition served me well for some time. However, as I became increasingly influenced by Progressive Christianity’s call to liberate the oppressed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, being all we can be, and loving others as well as ourselves, I needed a definition that encompassed the actions of all those things. I needed a definition that dealt with the soul as well as the spirit and sees all the parts as a whole. On top of all that I wanted make sure there was balance between self-love and other-love. That is why I reworked Peck’s definition into my own. Even though Peck’s definition and mine sound very similar, as you will see they are not the same.
Another thing I think needs to be addressed is where love comes from. This really depends upon ones life outlook. If ones life outlook is religious then love comes from God or gods. If ones life outlook in nonreligious then love comes from the evolution of human kind. Since neither the religious or nonreligious life outlook can be proven or disproven, it is not important to go into which one is right. For all we know it could be both. What is important to acknowledge is that either life outlook can apply my definition of love to their way of life.
As I said, this definition meets my needs. If you find that it meets your needs as well, then use it to guide you every day. If not then I urge you to find something that meets your needs and let it guide you every day. But before you decide whether or not my definition works for you, let me explain it in summary form.
The band, The Choir, wrote a song in which the chorus states, “There is something wonderful about love.” The writer was expressing his thoughts about his marriage relationship. However he was not saying that love is wonderful because it makes his relationship with his spouse “problem free”. No he says love is wonderful despite the fact that the relationship is full of problems. Yet he is still able to say love is wonderful.
Love is work. Whether it is the love you give to your spouse, children, enemy, neighbor, or yourself, love is work. It is a choice to humbly find ways to holistically nurture the true self of everyone you meet. It is a struggle.
First you have to choose to do it. You have to choose to make the effort despite the opposition you may face from yourself or others. Second, you have to be humble in knowing who you are and who you are not, unabashedly using your strengths and asking for help with your weaknesses. Accept the fact that you may not have all the answers of how to love and stand in the helpless feeling it gives you. That does not mean you give up. Remember, love is work.
Thirdly, you have to observe what will enrich and what will not enrich every aspect (mind, body, spirit) of the person you are choosing to love. Then humbly meet their mind, body, spiritual needs. Fourth, you have to balance your love of others with self-love. Never let one overtake the other. Lastly, you have to accept, be it yourself or some one else, who that person truly is, their strengths and weaknesses, and not what you wish them to be.
Love is work and a struggle. But in the end the work is well worth it. Think of the strong bond you will have with the person you love, be it yourself or others. This is why there is something wonderful about love.
This of course is a quick summarization of my definition. I will spend the rest of this book dissecting each part and in doing so I will give you the concrete actions that are the work of love. So let us go deeper into my definition.