We associate love with a lot of things - with activities (I love to ski), with objects (I love my new shoes) and also with people (friends and family). Our use of the word love has been so generalized and unspecific as to it has interfered with our understanding of love. It is also contributed by the unrealistic portrayal of love in some movies, our shyness in talking about it even to our closest friends and also the abstract nature of love. This blog post is about love based on the book The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck.
Although any definition of love is going to be inadequate, this is how Peck defines it -
Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s growth.
Love is an act of will - not just by intention or desire but also backed by action. Will is desire of sufficient intensity that it is translated to action. Will also implies choice - we do not have to love but we choose to love.
Love is also an act of extending one’s limits, either by courage or by effort. When we love someone (or ourselves), we’re willing to push ourselves to take the extra step, in opposition to the inertia of laziness or the resistance of fear. Love is not effortless. To the contrary, love is effortful.
It can also be noted that the definition of love includes self-love. Just as we cannot teach someone how to be disciplined unless we ourselves are disciplined, we’re incapable of loving others unless we love ourselves.
P.S. I highly recommend this book if you’re or will soon be raising a child. You might not agree to everything in the book but you’ll definitely take-away a few things.
6 Things About Love
Love is not dependency - One of the most common misconception about love is that dependency is love. This is often seen in people who are threatening to commit suicide - “I cannot live without my spouse.” Allowing yourself to be dependent on another person is the worst possible thing you can do to yourself. If you expect another person to make you happy, you’ll be endlessly disappointed.
Two people love each other only when they are quite capable of living without each other but choose to live with each other.
Love is not control - During the first few years of a child, a mother has complete control over her child - she makes all the decisions. But as the child grows up, she has to learn to let go of her child - so that the kid can make its own decisions, learn from them and grow.
In other words, she has to transition from a parent to a friend.
It is common for a mom/dad of a 10 year old to say - “I’m afraid my son might get hurt when he crosses the road. Let me drive him to school everyday myself. I love my son so much.” What is perceived as love here is actually the inability of the parent to let go of control.
Love is not self-sacrifice - The final misconception about love is that self-sacrifice is love. While it is true that love involves a change in the self, the change is more an extension of the self rather than a sacrifice of the self. We love because we choose to do it and we make that choice because it is the one that satisfies us the most.
Love is both selfish and unselfish at the same time. It is not the selfishness or unselfishness that distinguishes love from non-love; it is the aim of the action. In the case of love, the aim is always growth.
Love is work - Peck says that the act of love is always an act of either work or courage - there are no exceptions. The principal form that the work of love takes is attention. When we love another, we give him or her our attention - we attend to that person’s growth.
The most common way in which we can exercise our attention is by listening. True listening involves the temporary giving up or setting aside of one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker’s world from the inside, stepping inside his or her shoes.
Since love is work, the essence of non-love is laziness.
Love is courage - Courage in love takes many forms:
- The courage to accept that the relationship may end.
- The courage to commit to the relationship.
- The courage to change for the better.
- The courage to confront when needed.
Courage is not the absence of fear, it is making the action in spite of fear.
Love is separateness - Finally and most importantly, love is separateness.
Love is where each person respects one another’s individuality and sees each other as someone with a separate identity.
People who fail to see can become narcissistic and clingy. This behavior is observed in parents who regard their children as an extension of themselves and also in couples who’ve each lost their individual identity to form a combined identity. Ending this blog post on a lovely poem by Khalil Gibran on child-raising -
Code. Learn. Explore