. . . bid me love, and I will give
A loving heart to thee.
(Robert Herrick)

BEING A LOVING PERSON REQUIRES MORE CHARACTER THAN WE SOMETIMES SUPPOSE. While it’s occasionally right to speak of “falling in love,” genuine love in the deepest sense involves much more than fortunate circumstances and feelings. In real love, the mind and will are every bit as active as the emotions, and the showing of love calls for the highest and best character within us. Consider what happens when we give “a loving heart” to those around us.

(1) We find joy in loving, even when being loved is not a possibility. Loving is more a matter of what we give than what we get, and love can be love even when it’s unrequited. Perhaps it seems silly to our modern sensibilities, but there really was some value in the medieval idea of “courtly love,” which held that the most intense love is the pure desire for that which one can never possess for oneself. “There is more pleasure in loving than in being loved” (Thomas Fuller). To be truly, and most helpfully, loving to those around us, we need to love them for their own sakes and not for what we can get out of them.

(2) We seek the true and highest good of the other person, even to the point of personal sacrifice. To give a loving heart to someone, we must truly want whatever is best for that person and be willing to place ourselves in the service of his or her best interests. Loving people are willing to subordinate their wants to the other person’s needs.

(3) We maintain loyalty to love, even when the feelings of love are absent. If love is to be meaningful, it must not be dependent on the fluctuation of our emotions. Feelings come and go, but the demands of the loving heart are more constant. In these days of disposable relationships, we need to recover the concept of durable, committed love.

Nobody who’s tried it would say that love is easy. It does indeed take character, and that is something we’re all still in the process of building. But perhaps even more than character, being a loving person requires courage. Holding on to the trust that’s required to make love’s sacrifices is more than a little frightening. It’s not for the fainthearted. But for the bold, being loving is the very nectar of life itself.

“The loving are the daring” (Bayard Taylor).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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