Today is Valentine’s Day. I know, I know, this is coming to you a little later, sorry about that. This is a day in the U.S. where we celebrate love. For many of us that will mean making plans with our significant other, eating heart shaped things, and maybe watching a favorite rom-com. Of course, serving with an organization whose tag line and primary ethos is “Just Love” I couldn’t let the day pass without taking a moment to reflect on this four letter word that means so much, and so many different things.
Often we are conditioned to experience love primarily as an emotion. Those rom-coms have a way of teaching us it's merely feeling of warmth or devotion to others. Butterflies. But love is an action. It requires an active engagement, a reaching out, and vulnerability.
Saint Mary Euphrasia’s comment “it is not enough that you love them, they must know that you love them” brings this truth into relief. Whatever feelings we may hold of care and compassion for others must translate into action that is felt by them. And this action so often carries a cost with it. We are often asked to set aside part of ourselves in order to offer something to others. We give our time, our space, our energy to care for those around us. The Good Shepherd said it this way, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
This invitation to lay down a piece of ourselves in order to carry the burdens of another is the mechanism through which community builds resilience in us. We learn to be able to count on others’ active love to carry us in moments we cannot carry ourselves. I think this is what moves love from the realm of sentimentality to one of our great strengths in life.
But this takes practice. While we cannot practice the feeling of love, we certainly can practice the action of love. We can make the effort to move toward others across lines of difference. We can pause to step outside our own burdens to consider the burdens of others. We can start small and grow this ability to love so that over time it becomes all the more a part of us.
Director of GSV