“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” – Maya Angelou
With Valentine’s Day here, your head may be swimming with thoughts of flowers and chocolates, greeting cards festooned with hearts, and romantic candlelit dinners. But before you get caught up in all the commercial trappings of the holiday, let’s consider the real meaning of love.
Below, our readers and other respected minds through the ages share their personal definitions of the most beloved four-letter word in the dictionary.
We’ll start with the Apostle Paul’s view of love. In the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:7), he wrote, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” In other words, love is a constant and will help you weather even the roughest storms.
Love is also selfless and unconditional. “It is doing something, giving something or caring for someone with a joyful heart and with no expectation of anything in return,” explained Alice. “Love is forgiving over and over when offended by words or deeds without malice.”
Early on in our relationship, my husband expressed a similar connotation of love when he told me that he had always equated baking with love. His mom had lovingly baked chocolate chip cookies for him all his life. I’ve taught him that roasted Brussels sprouts can also mean love.
But this emotion isn’t simply tenacious and giving; it also makes you feel pretty darn good. Summing up this feeling, Tom said about his wife of nearly 50 years: “Comfort and contentment … and knowing she will always have my best interest at heart!”
“Love is a feeling that warms the cockles of my heart when I have made this connection with another human or puppy dog,” explained Pat about her partner of 30+ years and her two fur babies, Max and Gracie, who passed away last year.
When we think of love, certain rituals with our loved ones often come to mind. Tom’s wife, Linda, thinks of lying in bed holding hands while watching the late shows. Don recalls how his wife soothingly rubs his chin when he’s stressed.
Perhaps you don’t have a romantic partner this Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean that love is out of your reach. Claire, who lost her husband a couple years ago, cherishes the love of her friends – and the continuous give and take between them – even more these days. Wrote author Doug Pagels, “A friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the best things you can be.”
Claire also adds “love of nature” to the list. “Through our senses, emotions like love can arise by experiencing the wonder of nature,” she said.
But my husband probably captured the meaning of love the best (I may be a bit partial): “Love is 100 percent letting go and trusting the other person with your life, your happiness, and that they’ll always be there.” Love makes that responsibility easy to fulfill!