How empty would our lives be without love, receiving it and giving it?

‘Love’ is a soft word – too soft for many. They feel, ‘if we allow softness in our lives we will be exposed and left behind’. “Soft” is weak, and so is love’, according to them. Love means to be gentle, kind, compassionate and forgiving, whereas success requires being forceful, domineering and uncompromising. Yet, behind the facade of self-sufficiency and bravado, those who are uncomfortable with the concept also dearly want to be loved like everybody else. Their viewpoint is, however, understandable. The world is a scary place so that self-protection for survival comes naturally. Was it not for the love of our parents, caretakers or others that reached out to us, we would not have known anything but the need to protect ourselves from the real or perceived dangers of life. 

Love is a gift to mankind by a loving God. It is not our invention. We can only learn to love more and love better, but we don’t have perfect love. Understood and lived in its pure form, love does not merely make life bearable, but truly meaningful. Love is the joy of life, not as self-satisfying bliss, but as a mysterious overcoming of our selfish personal lives. To the degree that we yearn for love for our own pleasure, we will experience emptiness and coldness. Love, as a pillar of meaningful living, is to drink from the well of eternal and perfect love, which surpasses anything we can think or dream of.

What we learn from drinking from the well is that love and fear do not go together but that love, if we open ourselves to it, drives out fear. The experience of threat and fear is unavoidable in this imperfect world. Our natural instinct is to clutch on to what we have and to defend ourselves in the best way we can against any physical, spiritual or emotional threat. The harsh reality, however, is that as we try to protect ourselves from hurt we are often also closing the door to the healing and transforming power of love. We cut off the free-flow of oxygen we need to be a channel of love, thereby experiencing true meaning.

In our relationships of love here on Earth,  we can at best experience a dim reflection of perfect love. To the extent that we know God, we know love in its pure form. In knowing God better we discover that fear has no place in how we relate to him. And if we can relate to him without fear, we can relate to others without fear. True meaning can only be experienced in freedom. Only if we understand God’s love for us to be unconditional and that in his love,  he sets us free to respond willingly, can we learn to grow in love ourselves and can we learn to love others accordingly. Living and loving then becomes one and the same so that we can look at any other human being with love for him or her.

To see love as ‘soft’ and, therefore, unfit and unwanted in a world of competition, drive for performance and survival of the fittest, is a distortion and projection of our fears. Love is neither soft nor hard but in essence overcoming of selfishness, fear and self-protection. We get hurt in love, and we stumble over ourselves in our desire for love. But as we repeatedly open our hearts to God’s unconditional love, we find that it becomes easier to love unselfishly, to become more a channel for and less an obstacle to love. Life, as a result, becomes more meaningful.