The idea of love is perhaps the most misunderstood of all terms. For the most part, those that think they are in love have no clue what they are talking about. Many people step into relationships only because they find their loved ones sexually attractive. They pine in their absence and long for them all day long. In bed, they gratify themselves in anyway they know how. These may think that they are in love. However, beyond the sex, there is nothing much: no conversation, no entertainment, and no common interest. This type of love which is based only on physical attraction, ought to be called by its right name - lust! To others, love manifests as an object of possession and control - a reason for intense jealousy which motivates them to fight for attention and domination. Indeed, some ladies and gentlemen demonstrate their love for their partners by how many friends and family members they are able to scare away from their homes. These mistake selfish possessiveness for love.
There are also those parents that think that the most effective way to show love to their children is to spoil them and offer them whatever they ask for, raising them above all others and going on the rampage should teachers or others seek to discipline them. Inasmuch as this doting behavior leads to severe instances of irresponsible adulthood in the children, we can say that the parents are hating their children, not loving them. Indeed, those who would make their kids monarchs in childhood groom them for an adult life of servitude. The parents that truly love their kids will therefore discipline them and give them the requisite training for them to be responsible adults.
Again, people go to church to demonstrate their love for God through heavy donations. Others manifest their love for God by killing and destroying others not of their faith. Others' love presents in perpetual fasting, prayer mongering, and sanctimonious living. Nothing in their love of God touches their fellow human beings or bears on service and sacrifice for their communities. They hold fast to their racist and tribalistic behavior, while maintaining their hypocritical attitudes before the altars of their gods.
The foregoing shows fake love in action in several contexts, but the instances in which love is misunderstood are legion. Probably, our preachers have never succeeded in teaching us what true love means, or rather, they have waylaid love by injecting their interest between the concept and their monetary gains. Preach too much about love and the money meant for their pockets might be diverted to acts of charity…
True love is caring for humanity. The one caring for humanity puts the interest of others above his or her own interest. In this context, the welfare of his wife, children the society and country takes precedence over his own welfare, and he seeks harmony within the community by his or her support of every individual within the society.
Love also means service to others, which is actually service to God. The only way to authenticate our love for God is to love our neighbors. Service to others extends beyond our small circles to cover our societies, our countries, our world.
Love is also the effacing of the self and the purging of all self interest. This is applicable to all situations: if we eschew selfishness with our partners, friends, colleagues and family members, our relationships will be enriched, and our lives will become more whole.
Love is sharing. We do not share by making the Church richer through heavy donations. We share by an awareness of the needs of those around us, and the eagerness to supply these needs even beyond and above the call of duty.
Love is positive mental attitude towards all humankind, a life devoted to the realization that despite our differences, we are all God's children, deserving of dignity, respect, genuine friendship and affection.
Love is also forgiveness and mercy, the desire to give others another chance to redeem themselves, and the consciousness that by so doing, we will also have another chance to redeem ourselves.
Love is responsibility, the idea that we must perform our duties by our partners, our children our society and all humanity. If we reach deep into ourselves and do our best in every situation, we exhibit the quality of love. Love is the greatest of all emotions, it is a life purged of anger, of bitterness, of envy, of jealousy and of fear.
Love is the wisdom to weigh our words carefully and to listen to ourselves even as we address others, to check whether what we tell others is what we will want others to tell us.
Love is justice to all, and injustice to none. It is the courage to speak truth to power with humility and compassion, to prompt with respect, while retaining the gem of principles, to treat all as all should be treated and to shine the light of truth in the darker places of the spirit. To make whole that which is corrupt…
Love is the passion to do the most good, the alacrity for all things righteous, and the foreswearing of all acts evil.
In short, love is the affirmation of all things right, and the negation of all things wrong; it is the celebration of the ultimate good in our spirits, and the repudiation of the aberrations within our souls…It is the sacrifice of the self for the well-being of all beings, and the attainment of immortality through the death to the self.
Love is goodness and goodness is love. True love is the righteous life and the righteous life is the true love. True love applies to all time, all space and all actions. It is the dew of the morning that gives life to all life.
Our churches and mosques have not dwelt enough on the subject of love. Much too often, we have been misled to substitute the interest of the religious leaders for the love of God. The result is the pervasiveness of hatred in a world that is yearning for love. But every human being is happy and satisfied in his or her life in the proportion to which he retains love and is guided by its precepts. Just as the first victim of hatred is the person hating, so the first beneficiary of love is the person loving. The first born of love is the calmness of the spirit, the inner peace and contentment that come to the one that has done his utmost best. By giving, we get back many times; by letting go, we receive; by forgiving others, we forgive ourselves; by serving others, our spirits are served; by eschewing hatred, we unburden our minds, by sacrificing the self, we attain immortality; by being responsible, we create a society of duty. Just as there is no iota of hatred that goes unpunished, so there is no atom of love that will go unrewarded. This then is the mystery of life, that all happiness, all peace, all progress, all prosperity, depend on love, the beginning, the middle and the end of all life.
If what we understand of love comprise the foregoing, we shall be in harmony with our partners, our children, our societies and our world, and the virtues of calmness, charisma, courage and confidence will be infused in our lives. Upon this dreary earth, we shall endow the music of heaven, and bring into our world the fountain of joy known only by those that truly love.
Samuel Adjei Sarfo is a Juris Doctor candidate at a law school in Houston, Texas. You can reach him at [email protected]