The Power of Love
“The old man was at the bar making love to his tonic and gin.” A haunting line from “Piano Man.” It struck a chord today. Here we are looking for the cure to alcoholism and other destructive dependencies. We get a clue to the answer right in this song. Is love the answer for even some of the most debilitating conditions in our society?
It may not be quite this simple. Plenty of substance abusers have families, spouses, and kids. There ought to be some love there. Yes, there ought to. For whatever reason, statistics tell us they are not sufficient to stave off the cravings for mood-altering.
We can better understand how this might occur when we look at groups of people who do not seem to have enough access to demonstrations of affection. I am thinking in particular of older folks and perhaps those who have no significant other in their lives. Perhaps it is believable that lonely people will seek out alcohol. The result will not be one of feeling loved, but rather rendering the drinker less conscious of their want.
There is a drive, a craving in every one of us to love and be loved. That’s the what, so where is the how? How is it that the presence of love leads us to fully engage in our lives and the lives of those with whom we share the road? Being in a loving relationship is not automatic. It is instead, very challenging. Loving another human being requires a conscious effort.
The key element of love must be something very powerful since the absence of it could lead to such despair. The essential quality of Love is unselfish giving of self. The greatest measure of love is when it is unconditional as well. We hinder ourselves from being able to love when we focus on self-preservation. It seems unnatural to give without a concern for the merit of the receiver, but also we want to know what is in it for us. Being unselfish is probably the hardest thing we do.
Based on this description, we can all point to times in our pasts where we did not receive this kind of love. Can we also note the times we did not deliver this unselfish giving to others? Real love is about putting someone else’s needs above our own. Therein lies the challenge, but also the cure.
Is this possible for we mere mortals? Let me offer a solution that may seem like magic because it definitely works that way. We just choose. I know it does not feel natural. It goes against every grain of self-preservation born in us. We must choose every minute to serve that person. This is not an immovable mountain. It really is not rocket science. It just requires that we walk, interact moment-by-moment, choosing life. The complementary, empowering fire behind it is the life-altering rule of thumb: kindness trumps everything.
With this in mind, we can picture our day. When we think about someone significant in our lives, we need to think of what would bless this person. We have to do it without any concern about what they can offer us. It may seem to be lopsided if the recipient of our loving acts does not choose to shower kindness on us. The truth is that relationships are not anything like 50/50. It is more like 100/100. If only one person is giving, there is wholeness. It does just take one.
It takes a little spark of love to enflame the whole. We could think of those around us as dry kindling, which may not take a good deal of imagination. They are thirsty for someone to show them kindness, care, unmerited favor, unselfishness. We may be shocked by the blaze we start. As the flame builds, that fire engulfs us as well. At the same time, loving others enacts our feel-good hormones as surely as if we had just completed an invigorating workout. It looks like a win-win.
Even though it is humanly possible for us to choose to love even those who don’t love us, it is inevitable that the one doing all the loving will eventually become depleted if they are drawing from their own reservoir. Choosing to love is the first part. The second part is that we must love from a full heart. That is the only way unselfish love will endure the emptiness of unreciprocated love. It is when we are filled with the love of God for us that we can begin to love others. The Heavenly Father loved us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his only Son, Jesus. That is the ultimate in unselfish. We all know we do not merit that measure of love. Basking in His Love fills us to overflowing.
I am from the generation that sang it: “All you need is love.” It remains true. To achieve it, as we are armed with the love of God, we choose to do and think what is kind and good, even in the face of any treatment to the contrary we might receive. It takes an act of our will to not find excuses, elevate our own needs, or otherwise make this tougher than it is. It takes staying close to the Lord so that He can fill us with His perfect love. When we “exercise” kindness through God’s power, those endorphins become addictive. It is an attitude, a way of life that takes on its own power.
The driving force of love is unselfish giving. The well we dip from is the unconditional love of our Father. We are then enabled to will to act contrary to the negativity we often encounter in this world. We can decide we will love others, not as a means to an end, but as the end itself. We can choose life by accepting the love the Lord has given to us. Then we can impart this empowering spark of life to others. God’s love flowing through us to others satisfies that deep craving in us all. It is not just mood altering, but a thirst quencher.