What are we supposed to accomplish during this lifetime? It goes without saying that we need to love and support our families in every way possible, but that’s just the baseline. Once we have that box checked, what’s next?
I would argue that the next most important thing we can do has nothing to do with getting ahead in business or achieving a self-centered personal goal. It has to do with spreading love to those around us, outside of our immediate family.
When I use the word love, I don’t mean the love you feel for your favorite adult beverage, your cat or dog, or even your significant other. I’m talking about agape.
Agape (pronounced ah-gah-pay) is a love that’s different from erotic love or romantic love, as it exists on a higher, spiritual plane. It’s the unselfish love you give to everyone and everything around you, while expecting nothing in return. It’s love simply for the sake of loving.
In our society, love often includes an implied “if I love you, you have to love me back” pre-condition, that comes from a need for security or completion. In his book Writing in the Sand, Thomas Moore describes it as “a banker’s idea of love. If you don’t get as much out as you put in, you are being cheated.” But agape is different, as it has nothing to with the actions of someone else.
Agape is often associated Jesus and his unconditional love of humankind.
The concept of agape is said to originate with the ancient Greeks who believed that it came from an exterior source. This source, which I take as God, offers an endless supply of agape to all of us, at every moment, without preconditions. John Templeton, in his book Pure Unlimited Love, states it this way:
Agape is the holy, unconditional love that God gives us regardless of what we look like, how much money we have, how smart we are, and even regardless of how unloving our actions may sometimes be.
No matter how unworthy or unlovable we may feel, God offers us a consistent outpouring of love (which can be accessed through meditation and prayer). Of course, the most difficult part of agape is the reciprocal side—taking the love we receive and turning around and putting it out into the universe. As Templeton points out:
The great challenge is not in getting love but in giving it. Agape demands that we give others the freedom to return or not to return our love. And because it is unlimited, it keeps on giving even when love is not returned.
Templeton advises us to try and be like God and “radiate unlimited love”, which to me means reflecting the love you receive like a mirror. You then set up a feedback loop, by which the more you extend love outward to the world “the more you become flooded by waves of love from others and from God.”
The benefits of this endless loop of love are many. As Templeton puts it, “When we practice agape, it becomes easier to love our enemies, to tolerate those who annoy us, and to find something we appreciate in every person we meet.” He also points out that this unlimited love “encourages strength and freedom and empowers a person rather than fosters dependency or weakness”.
Thomas Moore goes a step further by advising that agape can even lead to romantic love, though he does add a few words of caution: “This doesn’t mean you should suffer abuse at the hands you love. As Jesus says more than once, you always have to love yourself in equal measure.”
No matter how you use agape, there’s no downside. Even the briefest of encounters with another person become an opportunity to reflect this unlimited love. It’s a power that we all hold within our hearts and it can be used at any time. Why not start right now?
I recently published the book “Thaddeus Squirrel, A Spiritual Fable”. It’s available at Amazon.