Since ancient times people instinctively strive for love. It has been lauded by troubadours, poets and writers described touching sacrifices in the name of love. Love is a feeling of the heart and man is willing to do much in the name of love, sometimes even everything. We, as human beings, are familiar with many kinds of love - for our partner, relatives, friends, even for the world and nature around us. But where does love come from? And how do we know whether the love we know is true Love?
Let us start with one of the kinds of love we know best - romantic love. A work by the psychologists Clyde and Susan Hendrick describes six romantic love styles: eros, ludus, storge, pragma, mania, and agape. Each of these love styles includes an attitude/belief complex with some emotional component. And every love relationship includes a mixture of different love styles depending on the characters of the partners and some other variables1.
From this example, we can understand that each kind of love can be characterized with different elements depending on the worldview of the person describing it. In all cases, however, there is an energy connection between the lover and the object of his feeling. And as long as the relationship is fed with energy, with feelings, it comes alive and love blossoms.
However, as time passes, people change and love also changes and sometimes diminishes and even disappears. Moreover, in some cases, love may even change into its opposite - hatred. And we are familiar with the frustrations of unrequited love. These fluctuations of feelings tell us that the human love we know is not Love with a capital L at all. The Sacred Scriptures speak of Love in a very different sense:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
From the aforementioned, it is easy to understand that this Love has nothing to do with our familiar feelings of love, even in its loftiest interpretations. But how can we truly love in this way? If we try, we will understand that true Love cannot be trained and cultivated, rather it is a manifestation of something much deeper. But a manifestation of what? To understand this let us turn again to the New Testament:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:12-13)
This makes it abundantly clear that Love is a manifestation of God Himself, of his life in us. In fact, Love is the very essence of God. It is obvious, however, that we, as nature born humans, are not aware of God in us, we are not consciously connected to Him, therefore, we do not have true Love. In the Bible, God, the kingdom of God, is compared to a mustard seed:
What is the kingdom of God like? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches. (Luke 13:18-19)
From this parable we could understand that God is a spiritual principle in the human being that in the beginning is like a mustard seed which, when planted in a garden (the human being himself) and cared for, can grow into a whole tree, the Tree of Life. It is obvious, however, that God cannot simply manifest Himself in the individual. Nor are our familiar religious methods, such as prayer, sufficient to help us in this respect. For there are hundreds of millions of sincere believers, but God, His essence, remains a great mystery. Perhaps the greatest.
In fact, the Sacred Scriptures contain ample clues of the human being's Path to God. The familiar Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is like a summary in this respect, although the texts are not always to be understood literally. Particularly helpful in this regard is the section on criticism:
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the speck in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
Although the Sermon on the Mount is unequivocal in this regard, all of human life, all of our upbringing, our habits, we might even say, our entire egocentric I are built on the basis of the self-maintenance and the subjective evaluation of others from our own limited perspective, which is placing them within our own limits.
The problem with subjectivity is that we do not have a clear view of either ourselves or others, hence any assessment is inaccurate and therefore false. This is why criticism, which is a negative evaluation, a judgment, is a clinging to the wrong ideas of the limited natural individual and, at the same time, it is a moving away from the God within. Thus, because of criticism, the individual blames himself or the others and he closes and separates himself through inner walls. And in this separation and non-acceptance, God simply cannot manifest in the human being; there is no room for Him and, therefore, no room for true Love.
Only when we truly know ourselves will we realize that at our core we are no different from the others we criticize. All of us have our own flaws that are actually very similar to the flaws of others we criticize. By accepting ourselves and others with all of our shortcomings we will open our inner being to all creatures and the world around us and we will thus create room for the growth of God within us. In union with other like-minded people, a space of Love will be created in which others seeking the God within can be accepted into a process, a Path to God. Thus, the true Love that is for everyone and everything will gradually manifest in the human being more and more noticeably as a blessing for many.
- 1. Hendrick, C., S. S. Hendrick (2019). Styles of romantic love. In R. J. Sternberg & K. Sternberg (Eds.), The new psychology of love (pp. 223-239). Cambridge University Press.