Thinking about love


Photo by Yana on Unsplash


When children begin school, core subjects like mathematics, science, social studies, and reading receive the most emphasis. Some teachers, however, wish other subjects with more practical applications could be taught. Ones offering life skills or effective communication could positively impact children in ways that science or social studies rarely cover.


Wouldn’t it also be beneficial if there were some way to include a few courses on dignity, integrity, and common sense? Maybe the reason why math is taught instead of integrity is that because two plus two always equals four, while integrity is not always quite succinctly defined.


There are many lessons and values on life rarely given enough consideration in schools simply because it’s difficult to set a standard of what should be taught. Children are instead destined or tasked to learn them on their own. With role models like other peers or television, it’s easy to understand why many will develop incorrect or improper attitudes and behaviors about many of these topics.


Perhaps one of the subjects needing maximum attention is the most important of all, and that is the none other than love. Is there any subject more important to being a human being? It has the potential to affect us in every interaction and relationship yet many of us are left to navigate this complicated and diverse subject on our own. Is this perhaps the reason why so many never earn a passing grade in that subject?


Defining love


There have been thousands of magnificent accounts of love conceived and expressed in every way imaginable. Beginning from the very first love poem inscribed on an ancient cuneiform tablet to the modern-day stories shown in cinematic grandeur. These, however, are tales contrived and born from the imagination of romantic purists. While they strive to articulate their own ideas on the meaning of love, the mundane and routine details of everyday life are often discarded for their lack of creative and captivating features. Although it makes for fabulous theater, it’s not an optimal way to develop a healthy concept of what love means.


Love is a word that encompasses one of the broadest definitions. We can love other human beings, animals, inanimate objects, even concepts, and within each one of these categories, love is experienced in different ways.


Many of us love our pets as much as if they were humans. We can also love our clothes, a car, or some other possessions. If you mentioned that you loved your breakfast, no one would ever infer you felt the same way about an omelet as you do for another human being.

Realizing that there are many levels and intensities of love allows us a deeper perspective on its meaning and understand its limitations. It is possible that we will rarely experience love the same way twice.

No escape

There is one risk we must face at any attempt to love and the more we endeavor to love the greater this possibility becomes. It is the one unwanted guarantee love presents you every time you encounter it. For with every person, every animal, every thing we choose to love, there is always a possibility of grief, hurt, or heartbreak.


I am not referring only to terrible relationship breakups. The pain doesn’t need to be intentional and often is accidental. Deliberate or not, experiencing pain in love’s wake is one of the most difficult moments humans face. Indeed, it is so painful that it’s frequently the reason why some choose never to cross love’s doorstep again.


Suffering this level of hardship must be an unthinkably severe pain. I have certainly had my share of loss and disappointment, but nothing to the degree that would raise my guard and steer me away from opening my heart again.


For those of you who have suffered from this kind of loss, my heart goes out to you and I could never say that your choice is incorrect. However, I would like to offer some insights for your consideration.


It is often said that we must love ourselves before we can love others. With the definition of love being quite vast, I would beg to differ and say this is not completely true. It is possible to love others even when we lack a genuine love for ourselves. But because we are not fully aware of what self-love means, we may become easy prey and fall into the traps that are detrimental to us.


What we think is showing our love to others may be more of a sign that we want and need their approval or acceptance, leaving us vulnerable to manipulation and deception. Loving ourselves gives insight and awareness so we are less likely to be taken advantage of and yearn to have it reciprocated in healthy ways. Although it won’t make us immune from other’s conniving or gameplaying, it provides us the strength to stand up to the inequities and exploitations by others. It gives us the wherewithal to adjust our definition of love toward that person to avoid future pain or devastation.


Since love has such a broad definition, it is also true that self-love has different meanings. For those who have struggled with confidence, self-love may require more effort and outward actions. Those with more confidence realize it’s not always necessary to put it on display.


Self-love is not a ticket to entitlement or importance. It doesn’t beg you to tell others, “Do you know who I am?” It provides an inner peace and a realization we are an individual like everyone else. The calmness we feel is perceived by others and inspires us to help them achieve it as well.


It is virtually impossible to face love without the possibility of loss, grief, or disappointment. But understanding this and being willing to be vulnerable is the risk we take any and every time we choose to love.


If you enjoyed this article, please like it and feel free to leave a comment. My thanks to Yana on Unsplash for the beautiful photo. If you are having questions about self-love or how you should love others, please feel free to reach out to me at john@shamedoctor.com. It is my passion to help.

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