Love is really quite a mysterious idea. People seem to know what they mean when they say they feel it, but few are able to express clearly what they feel. Part of the trouble stems from confusion about the word. It has been overused and misused to much that many people think they are feeling love when they are actually feeling something else. For one thing, love is not the same as desire. To desire a thing is to want to have it in your possession, whereas love is never possessive. Love is not a product of desire, nor desire a product of love. They are completely separate, although an object of desire can at the same time be an object of love.
There are three key words that explain what love is: understanding, acceptance, and giving. Understanding can lead to love, but it is not love itself. Therefore, it is less important than the other two. But many times there must be understanding before there is acceptance. The unknown has to become known before the fear it causes can be overcome. Very often where there is a lack of love, it is because fear is present. Fear is the father of hate, which is rejection and selfishness, the opposite of love. And ignorance can be said to be the father of fear. Where ignorance is replaced by understanding, fear is dissipated and love can enter.
But love will enter only if it is invited. It is an active thing, and does not exist unless there is action on the part of the one who loves. I mentioned acceptance, but I'm not talking about a passive acceptance which is no more than indifference. I mean the kind of acceptance that opens the door and extends an invitation to come in. And when the guest is inside, the other aspect of love comes into play - giving. Not the giving of things, but the giving of self, with no strings attached. Love is best done for the sake of loving and not for the sake of getting something in return, nor even just to please someone. For these kinds of love are false and empty. They will bring poor satisfaction, dependent as they are on another's whim. When you have a truly loving heart you will not lack for other who love. They will be attracted to you as bees to a brilliant flower.
There is a great secret to loving others and being loved in return. It is to love yourself first. Unless there is already water in the tap, nothing will come out when you try to turn it on. Unless you have learned to accept and give to yourself, you will have great difficulty in doing the same for anyone else. Accepting yourself means acknowledging all your good and bad qualities and realizing this is the material you have to work with, then making the decision to go ahead and work with it. The love type of giving is not indulgence, but care, attention, and the effort to polish what is good and improve what is bad. To love yourself also means to accept the fact that you are worthy of love. Many people have the idea that they are unworthy of love, because of things they have done or the way they have been treated. This is absolutely wrong! As it has been so beautifully stated, "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." You are worthy of love simply because of the fact that you exist. Nothing you have done, nothing you have thought, nothing anyone has told you can alter that fact. As the ancient Hawaiians also said so beautifully:
He punawai kahe wale ke aloha
[Top of page] - Contact us