What does it mean to love?
Does love mean commitment? Expectations? Conditions? Reciprocity? What does it really mean to love another person? The definition of Love, as a noun, according to Merriam-Webster varies from sexual attraction to an unselfish and benevolent concern for the good of another. As a verb, it means to hold dear. There are significantly fewer definitions for the verb form than the noun form, which is actually a bit of a surprise to me as I am thinking about this.
With love as a noun, there is a kinship, an attachment as a general rule, but the one I like the most is the unselfish and benevolent concern for the good of another. Let’s look at this definition and see if Merriam-Webster’s 4th version of the definition makes sense.
When I tell someone that I love them, I am basically expressing to them that I appreciate who they are, who they are to me personally and that I want only the best for them. I do not say it to hear it back, although, we all must admit it is nice to hear those words just the same. When I feel love for someone, I am thinking positive thoughts and I am wishing only for their happiness or success. I only love them. I only want what is best for them, even when sometimes that may take them away or when that means they experience turmoil in search of growth. I want them to experience their highest self, reach their highest potential and ultimately to be able to love themselves in the same way.
So, what do I want when I love someone? Nothing, really, except perhaps that they might understand what I mean. Reciprocity is not required, nor is more than what is required at all. I want those for whom I feel love to experience all that life has to offer and to find their bliss as they wade through life’s distractions. Often this experiencing and searching has very little to do with me, nor should it, except for my role as a beacon or a safe space when there are growing pains. It honestly has little to do with what I might think is best either. Only they know that.
If Merriam-Webster nailed it with their 4th definition, and love is an unselfish and benevolent concern for the good of another human, then my sense of love is similar, but unfortunately not often what we commonly see when love is professed. By this definition, we could potentially love every person we come in contact with and even our supposed enemies, right? Many religious practices share that we should love others and ourselves, but I am not sure that the teachings are all that clear about what love is or what love means. We love most with conditions, and this is what we are taught about love. We love most when we have expectations and commitments and reciprocity. What if there were no expectations, no conditions and only love? What if we only loved?
I wonder what would happen if each of us set aside one hour in our day to only love? To love random people with whom we see when running errands or sitting in traffic? What if we were to love our friends, significant others, or family in the way that we want to feel this sort of love from them? Pure love has no conditions, no expectations, no need for reciprocity and no need for the engagement ring—it just is.