“Love is the highest of emotions. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, and might. But it is also, in family contexts, fraught with danger. Love brings joy. It also brings tears. It brings some people close, but makes others feel distanced, rejected.”
The wise words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks always give me food for thought, and have really helped in guiding me in redefining my understanding, and my use of my emotions.
Over the years, I have focused on the topic of love quite a bit, and consistently espoused just how important love truly is. I am firmly of the opinion that when we treat others with love, we are more than capable of conquering most of the challenges we encounter. While love is a subject I have given much thought to over the years, it is not necessarily a concept that I have properly understood until more recently.
For many years, my relationship with God was a love based in fear. I feared that if I was unhappy, the divine would take what I had; that if I was sad, God would give me a reason to be sadder; that if I did not do exactly what God said, I would not have approval, and that I would somehow receive some form of punishment or retribution as a result of my perceived shortcomings. Obviously, this was neither healthy, nor true love from me to God, or from God to me; this was much more like a business deal— all reciprocal, and not free-flowing in any type of way.
Furthermore, I never understood how if I had greater love for one family member over another— or dare I say, one child over another— I could potentially cause irreparable harm, and that without wanting to or trying to, I could really hurt those that are so near and dear to my heart.
It was not until I read the words of Rabbi Sacks that I understood that love without justice is subjectively emotional, and fraught with danger— the least of which being the impulsive decisions that can have life-long consequences, whether that be favoring one child over another because they meet my current wants greater than the others, or whether cutting people off because I do not feel loved by them, or feel love for them in that moment.
Obviously, love is extremely complicated. I have spent a great deal of time pondering what, exactly is love, and I am at the point now where I would really like to hear your thoughts, and open a dialogue that we can all potentially learn, and grow from. And so I ask:
How do you balance the love that exists in your life? How do you allow it to help you create connection, without causing separation? And ultimately, what is your personal definition of love?
My personal definition of love, is loving thy neighbor as thyself, and treating others how I would like to be treated. Just as I would not want anyone to cut me off because I am not meeting their current needs— which many times, I am completely unaware of— so to, I should not do that to others. Also, I try to remind myself to use the power of love to be a balance to the power of my envy and resentment, which are both very powerful emotions in their own right. As such, love must not just be completely reactionary; as the love shared between people can never truly be equal. There are those that I will always love more than others, yet I still must remind myself that my definition of love dictates that I still treat each and every person with dignity, kindness, compassion, and respect in turn.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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