It takes courage to love.
Love is not what we think. It is not the cathartic release of repressed emotions. It is not the ecstatic expression of our bodily urges. It is certainly not marriage.
Perhaps these things may be components of a loving relationship, but they by no means encapsulate what it truly means to love.
Love implies a compassionate understanding of another. It is stepping outside of our own personal experience in order to truly see another person. Love is the warmth of true empathy—the natural kindness and appreciation that arises when we are in soulful accordance with a another.
This requires a level of fearlessness. When we truly love someone, we are momentarily foregoing our ego, our personal biases, and our predisposition. We are forced to let go of ourselves, in a sense, to detach from our personal identity.
This is a difficult thing to do.
To love is to express one’s vulnerability, and people don’t want to feel vulnerable. It reminds us that we are human, and all humans die. We would often prefer to abide in our own delusions and live in our thoughts. The act of loving reminds us of how fleeting the human experience really is, in some strange way, and this absolutely terrifies us.
I have been feeling open to love in a way that I never have before.
I had a “dark night of the soul” experience a couple weeks ago, and the journey that has followed has been one of restoration. Something deep within me was forced to change, after developing many bad psychic habits (isolation, confrontation, justification, and so on) to help cope with my chronic illness. I had been living in my head for a long time and had lost touch with my heart, and eventually this caused me to hit bottom pretty damn hard.
I’ve been really closed off because I was afraid that people wouldn’t like what they might see if I really opened myself up. The physical inadequacies presented by my illness have had a similar impact emotionally. I have felt like I am not good enough, that there is something profoundly wrong with me that other people couldn’t relate to. I was afraid of being judged.
I am speaking in the past tense because I don’t feel this way anymore. Although I still recognize these patterns within myself, I am not letting them be the driving forces in my life. I still feel alienated from other people as a consequence of my condition, but I am now doing everything in my power to bridge that gap, and this is achieved through complete and total honesty. If I am honest with myself, I am more likely to be honest with other people, and this takes a great deal of courage.
Self-love takes just as much strength and fearlessness as loving other people, and this is because they are the same thing. Loving another human being is ultimately a manifestation of self-love, for we must first bear that benevolent inner warmth before we can express it to other people. Like this, we have the courage to see ourselves in another; we find the spiritual bravery to acknowledge the fundamental sameness in all of us.
In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “While we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our heart beats as one.”
It is easier in the moment to close ourselves off, to see ourselves as being distinctly different and separate from everything else, but to live in such a way is to remove ourselves from the most beautiful aspect of the human experience. We can remain as unique individuals, while at the same time understanding that we are all connected in a much deeper way. This deeper connection is defined by love.
When I opened my heart, my life changed for the better. I would rather die tomorrow having known love than live an eternity without it. In my experience, we can only endure suffering with dignity when we have first chosen to live with love—to struggle with all of our soul on behalf of the good.
It takes courage to love, and the cultivation of this courage is the path of virtue.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Yoann Boyer/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Nicole Cameron