Short Essay: Learning to Love

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ― Elbert Hubbard

By Dave Hood

In Canada and many other western democracies and free-market economies, more than 50% of marriages end in divorce. It would seem that people don’t know how to love.

Unless you  love, you might live your life, without any friends or lovers. Instead, you’ll focus on your self, your own needs, your own insignificant life. You might end up  a lifetime bachelor or spinster, living alone, watching television all day,  in the creaky, old house, inherited from elderly parents. A place where nobody visits and the telephone remains silent. Your only friend, a black cat, who talks to you.

Unless you love, you could end up like the lonely, broken hearted uncle, you meet at  family reunions, the relative you hardly know, whose name you often cannot remember, like the yellowed paperback you’ve forgotten , collecting dust on the bookshelf.

Unless you love, your fate might be like that of   a homeless man you read about in the paper, whose now buried in an unmarked grave, beside the  sprouting weeds, long grass, along the stretch of highway, you pass each summer weekend to the cottage, next to the new subdivision, now being built for young families who seek to embrace love. Or worse, you might grow old, spend your last years filed away, forgotten in a nursing home, strapped to a bed, muttering, “I want to die.”

How do we learn to love? Gary Chapman explains how in his bestselling book, “The Five Love Languages,” First, you must spend quality time with your friend or lover. For instance, you might go out for dinner and a movie each week. Secondly, you can express your love with a gift, such as giving your partner a box of chocolates or flowers. Thirdly, can can provide your friend or lover with acts of service, such as cooking dinner, cleaning the house, washing the laundry. Fourthly, you can express you love with physical touch, for instance, holding hands, kissing, caressing, making love. Finally, you can express your love with words of affirmation, such as “I love you.” According to Chapman, not everyone requires the same love language. And so, it is up to each person in a love relationship to determine their own love language, as well as their partners.

According to Buddhist philosophy, suffering is a feature of the human condition. Every human being experiences mental and physical pain, some more than others. Without love, a person will experience pain–and pain generates suffering. You can learn to cope with our suffering and improve your happiness with love. To love, you must be kind to others—treat them as you would like to be treated. To love, you must learn to be compassionate, walking in the shoes of another, or viewing life from another person’s perspective. To love, you must also learn to “let it be.” This means that if you cannot improve a situation, don’t make things worse. Sometimes, it’s best to do nothing. For instance, suppose your lover insults you or argues with you. Instead of escalating the situation with an angry response, you can learn to respond with a peaceful, compassionate response. You must also learn to “let go”  of resentment or anger. You can begin by ignoring the impulse to punish the other person and by distancing yourself, for instance, taking a long walk, or spending time away from the other person, until you cool down. As time passes, the angry feelings will melt away, like a pile of winter snow on a mild spring day. When the anger or resentment are gone from your mind, you can begin to interact with the other person again.

Love is a basic human need. It enables us to grow and to self-actualize. According to positive psychologists, we require love to be happy. Love is like a flower that cannot bloom without sunshine. The Chinese philosopher, Laozi once said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Clearly, to love another requires courage. Those who who are unable to love will experience long stretches of time feeling isolated, disconnected, and painfully lonely.

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About Dave Hood

Lover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.
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