Not All About Sex and Romance
Valentine’s Day is not all about sex and romance, but about love.
We talk about the power of love. It can be a challenge for us, though, to appreciate the practical, everyday power of love in our lives.
Sometimes it is easier for us to see how powerful hate can be. Hate often appears to be better equipped and better organized than love.
Love can seem to be warm and gooey, accompanied by lush strings and soft harmonies. We think love is emotional and romantic, maybe familial, and a little naive.
Love brings to mind balloons shaped like hearts and flowers and Valentine’s Day cards. Hatred reminds us more of weapons both personal and those of mass destruction.
It is easy for many of us to think people probably would not love us if they really knew us.
Love seems to be beyond our ability to understand or explain. We can grasp why some people might hate each other. Love often feels less comprehensible to us.
How powerful is love in our everyday lives? Do we really believe love can overcome hatred, or indifference, or fear? How well is love integrated in spiritual life?
What are we really celebrating on Valentine’s Day? It is not all about sex and romance.
It can be easy for us to miss or ignore the power of love in everyday life. We pay more attention to the dramatic results and ramifications of hate.
Hatred can be shocking and immediate, while love often works in the long term.
Have we experienced love’s power in meaningful ways? What does the power of love look and feel like in our lives?
How can we share the powerful ways love shapes our lives when we do recognize them?
What does the power of love really mean to us?
What is Valentine’s Day All About?
Love means different things to different people.
Some of us see hearts and flowers. We taste very dark chocolate, sweet as well as bitter. Some of us see another person’s face, or the light in a child’s eyes. We may find love in our dog or our cat. Some of us think of making love, of bodies coming together. For some love is romantic, a grand passion. There is loving another person, loving our family, loving our neighbors, loving our country, loving people in general, loving the earth, loving God, loving ourselves.
Some people think of enduring love, love as the foundation stones of our lives. We may see love as vast and overwhelming, like the ocean or a mountain. Love might be a marathon we are running, or a journey we are taking. We have heard that complete love casts out fear, and that all we need is love.
I see love as a flame.
Life is all about people and things I love. The fire of a multitude of candles sparks the flame in my own heart.
We are on a continuing journey which includes places of overwhelming beauty and wonder. I have had the joy and privilege of visiting great cities, remote vistas, deeply spiritual monasteries, and rugged coastlines where the ocean embraces the land.
We are surrounded by friends and family, people who inspire us even when we have never met in real life. People have taught us valuable lessons, trusted us with their deepest secrets, and helped us become who we really are.
It is an honor for us to be asked to do work we love with people who trust and respect us. The people who ask me to help them keep the flame of love burning bright.
The Power of Love
The loves of our lives come to us in many forms. They may be primarily emotional or intellectual, physical or economic.
When we experience the power of love we want to share it. Love shapes how we connect to other people, the rest of the world, and our deepest selves. Spiritual life, a relationship based in love, fills us and draws us closer.
Traditionally romantic expressions of love are too limited to do us much good. The love of spiritual life overflows in us, spreading out through us. It is not all about sex and romance.
One of the most significant challenges for me is learning to love myself. As I become more able to love who I am there is more love within me for others.
My experience has been overcoming obstacles to treating myself in loving ways. Loving myself becomes more possible as I learn not to hold myself to unrealistic expectations.
As I realize I am not likely to be perfect, I find myself more lovable.
It is not loving, or fair, for me to hold other people, or nature, to impossible standards. How can it be loving to expect ourselves to be perfect?
My relationship to myself has taught me deep lessons about how love works. The power of love works within us to help us become better lovers.
Not Merely Sex and Romance
For me, the power of love begins with loving myself. As I discover new possibilities to love myself, I grow in how I am able to love others.
Nobody wants to be held to impossible standards. As I start to recognize what I do to myself I begin to see how unloving I can be.
We learn to love by loving over time. It is not loving to expect ourselves to do it well the first time we try. We explore, trying new patterns of behavior. When we make mistakes we discover new opportunities to love and accept ourselves. Our new understanding takes us in new directions.
The power of love builds on itself as we practice. We are beginners, taking each new step forward.
Practicing the power of love shows us how we can become better at loving. It is not all about sex and romance.
When will we realize Valentine’s Day is not all about sex and romance?
How will we practice the power of love in new ways today?
[Image by riptheskull]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.