Love, as anyone who has ever experienced the 'softer side' of it can tell you, is 'A Many Splintered Thing! When I say, 'the softer side', I'm referring of course, to the emotional 'feelings-based' version, the one that can change as quickly as the weather. Love, as we've often explored before in this blog, is, first & foremost, an action, though often based on feelings. Many recognize love as a choice, but only some choose to love sacrificially, while others love only superficially, as long as it suits their purpose & doesn't interfere with their plans.
As we near the middle of this month of februation ( look it up ), we should ponder the meaning of love; 'What is it good for?' 'Why should we care?' 'Who is it for?' 'When should we show it?' If love is based on physical intimacy, as some unions seem to be, it's likely that union won't last very long! Even in relationships built on physical intimacy, unless one or the other is willing to sacrifice their desires for the other's, the relationship will suffer harm even more quickly. Sacrifice, when it comes to matters of love, particularly in today's vernacular, is almost a foreign concept; O sure, when the relationship is in its beginning stages, one or both participants may try to make a good first impression, but once the relationship has gotten off the ground, so to speak, it often becomes difficult for the either of the two parties to give way to the other.
Self-love is gaining in popularity, of late! Social media outlets like FaceBook have noted a rise in the awareness of the necessity of loving oneself. Self-love is not a new concept & it's really only common sense to say that, unless & until one loves him or herself, it's not possible to truly love another. Though this idea has been around for centuries, even millenia, institutionalized religion, Christianity in particular, has done much to drive people away from the whole notion, teaching us that we are totally depraved, in essence, teaching us to hate ourselves because we are so depraved that we will not, on our own, choose to do what is just, right & good!
The doctrine of Total Depravity is almost impossible to refute, especially in this day & age, where depravity seems to run rampant! However, much of the problem can be linked to institutionalized Christianity, which has taught for centuries that this depravity will only get worse, until finally Jesus will come back & end it all. This belief, or doctrine has allowed the Institutional Church to sit back on its 'laurels', its Blessed Assurance, so to speak, almost welcoming this depravity as surety of the imminence of the so-called 'Second Coming!
Though the Parousia occurred in the 1st century, just like Jesus said it would ( Matthew 24:34, 26:64, etc. ), many Christians in this day & age do not believe His Word on this account; in fact, Institutional Christianity has taught for many centuries that Jesus has not yet returned as He promised. This in turn has had a detrimental effect on the culture around it & thus we see the degree of depravity that we do. Now, don't get me wrong, we can't blame institutional Christianity wholly; the individual still bears the full brunt of responsibility for their own choices, but institutionalized religion, Christianity in particular, must shoulder some of the blame as well!
Loving one's own self is different than being selfish! In the past, even in this day & age to some degree, it may seem there's not much difference, given the modern definition of love, but the difference is clear; loving oneself enables that one to love others, since it is impossible to give love without knowing what love really is. Selfishness is really almost the opposite of true love, for selfishness is not the love of self, but is more akin to a lust for self & things, even if they belong to another!
We have been taught for centuries that we are selfish, wicked creature & so we are! Humans are not naturally this way, though we have been noted for our tendency to make bad choices. Much of what we have been taught in this area is being discarded as hogwash by many in this day & age, rightly so, but along with it, many have seemingly thrown out the baby with the bathwater; some have gone so far in the opposite direction that they are living in direct contradiction to EVERYTHING they were taught. Thus, we bear witness to the 'free-love' of the 60s & the depravity of today!
'Love is not a victory march', sings a famous modern-day troubadour: much of our problem in this day & age, one might say, is that many view love as a conquest, something to be won! Really, if you think about it, when a person so loves themselves, it will be obvious to that significant other that, 'here is someone who knows how to love, who knows what love really is!' The love that a person has for another will be proportionate to the love that one has for him or herself. Any attempt to love another will not last unless one first learns to love oneself & I speak to myself here, more than to anyone else.
Many relationships fail because, 'I just don't love him or her anymore'! This is sadly true, largely because the love shown is equal to the love held & the willingness or unwillingness of either party to capitulate, or sacrifice for the good of the other. Here again though, one must understand what love truly is in order to wield it to the best effect. If one person sees love as merely physical intimacy, then that one will think of self-love as selfishness & will manifest this in any relationship that he or she strives to enter into. On the other hand, if one recognizes love for what it truly is, the ability to freely choose to do what is just, right & good, then that one will be able to truly love, not just him or herself, but the other as well!
The choice to love another is, at the same time, both the easiest & the hardest choice anyone can ever make! Love is sacrificial in the sense that we have to give of ourselves in order to love another. If we do not love ourselves, we cannot love another. Many people have a sort of superficial love, a love that might even go beyond those three little words that everyone loves to hear, a love that might flare up when it suits ones own selfish purpose, or fits into their plans.
A love that's built to last, though, must begin with ones own self! If we can but learn to love ourselves unselfishly, not lusting after our own needs & desires above those of everyone else, but treating ourselves with the justice, goodness & rightness that we would have others to treat us with. When love starts with ourselves, only then will it build any sort of lasting relationship.
May we BE the love that we wish to see in others,
Charles Haddon Shank