Love, strength and courage ~ The greatest things you’ll ever learn

Every now and again I post a status message on Facebook that generates a comment storm. And every now and again, that comment storm generates ideas good enough for a blog post, as it did with The Tao of Love and Light: Riffing on physics and faith.

Yesterday morning I posted the following couplet as a status message.

Being loved doesn’t make us stronger.
Loving is what makes us stronger.


I’ll get into what motivated me to post that in a moment, but I’ll say now that I had some misgivings about pairing these two sentences. I knew they might need some explanation, but decided to let it ride, and gauge the response.

Sure enough, straight off the bat, mixed reviews. The first comment was very positive, and suggested the world was improved by maintaining this view of love. The second commenter pointed out that she felt stronger when she was loved by someone, and stronger as well as when she loved someone else.

I was already googling for other quotes about love by the time these comments were posted, and it didn’t take me long to come up with a clarification.

My thinking there follows a buddhist tradition: if being loved gives you strength, then where does strength come from when you are not being loved? Then again, any quote requiring deep philosophical discussion to be appreciated isn’t a good quote.

Maybe Lao Tse said something wiser:

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,
while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Now, all this is just me riffing off a Dalai Lama quote a friend posted:

The more you are motivated by love,
the more fearless and free your action will be.

Maybe that one’s wisest, afterall. =)

Riffing…that’s what I like about comment storms. A bunch of people tossing in brief responses to succinct ideas. I get to muss around with the ideas and receive some quick feedback, post something else, get more feedback, muss around some more, and maybe arrive at an idea that’s half intelligent. It’s great, a mixture of brainstorming and collaboration.

This whole thing started because I read a Dalai Lama quote which my rumbling brain jumbled up and spat out as a status message. That causes a bunch of brains to rumble around, throw more ideas on the fire, and now we’re back to the Dalai Lama.

One wise friend then posted: It’s great to observe ourselves when we love another. I really love who I am when another is living in my heart.

I think that’s both beautiful and brilliant.

Another wrote, these words are food for the soul, and they absolutely are.

Reflecting on these comments, it occurred to me:

I love the way the words circle around, with people finding ways to amplify them…

Then came a quick flurry by two dear friends,

The first wrote, loving also comes with risks, and that risk is you may not be loved in return ….ouch
But, to not take that risk means an empty life, methinks
.

But the strength we get from loving helps us with that risk, responded the second.

To which the first replied, But sometimes loving drains all that strength from you, then you are reticent to risk again.

Oh. This really fired me up, because it went straight back to the original status msg. Being loved doesn’t (necessarily) make you stronger, and neither does loving. I spent some time mulling it over, writing stuff down, more mulling, more writing and eventually came up with the following.

I think the kind of love that drains us is characterised by neediness, by expectation, a love not based on giving and receiving, but on conditions and taking.

When that is our state of love, being loved doesn’t make us stronger. Rather, it weakens us with a false sense of security. When the love is taken from us (such love is always ephemeral) we crumble.

It’s love without conditions that strengthens, gives courage.

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

There’s a subtle gentleness to the love in that lyric from the song Nature Boy, most beautifully and memorably performed by Nat King Cole (although the rendition posted above is very tasty!).

We talk about ‘seeking love,’ ‘finding love,’ ‘getting some love’. But Nature Boy knows what’s best, and also most rewarding, is just to love — to be loving — and to open yourself to being loved.

A simple lesson, yet, one of the hardest to learn. (I struggle with it all the time.) To master that lesson, first we must master an even harder one, to love ourselves with all the unconditional gentleness Nature Boy suggests.

I think that’s where strength and courage flow from.

Yeah. That felt pretty good, seemed to get at what was floating about in my mind when I originally posted the status message. What was really nice was to get the following affirmation via a good friend from waaaaay back in high school.

Bob and I are celebrating 26 years this Wednesday and all you just said is sooo true! Of course it took 26 years and three children for me to become enlightened to it and I’m still learning everyday! 🙂

Now, that’s a beautiful thing.

<smile> Thanks! …for the affirmation, of course, but also for reminding me: enlightenment isn’t a destination but a never-ending path. 🙂

Oh, and congratulations!!! Way to go!

Mmmmmm….

Thanks, all of you, for helping me out with that.

Now, back to that path.

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3 Responses to “Love, strength and courage ~ The greatest things you’ll ever learn”

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  1. karen says:

    Peter, thankyou for this blog.

    You know, at the end of the day, love is something most of us long for at some point – we yearn for it, struggle to have it and pray that it finds us.
    I hear the words of a dear friend of mine echo…”What you put into things is what you get out of them”
    So, if we want this so badly, how can we attract more of it?

    When we think with love, speak with love, and act with love, we’re much more likely to receive love. Living our lives with love and positive energy will usually reward us with love, and yes, as you said, you can’t really attract the love you seek until you are able to accept that you are a worthy recipient, and that means loving, respecting and accepting ourselves first.

    Of course, not all of us get the “fairy tale” ending, but love is a mighty power, it gives joy, is the energy of life….so is it worth the risk?

    Over and again 🙂

  2. Peter says:

    [smile] You’re welcome, Karen. And thank you for such a thoughtful comment!

    Buddha said, “Once you realise just how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”

    I’m not Buddha, but I kind of wonder if the path to that kind of unbridled joy isn’t fairly well laid out by the Nature Boy. If you can perfect the art of loving — just to love and be loved in return — well, that sounds like a damn fine fairytale ending to me. To give love is to know love.

    I’ve experienced a few hours and days at some points in my life where that kind of love flowed bountifully. I was one blissed-out puppy. What was most fascinating about it was that everybody I met wanted to be my friend.

    Hmmm… Kornball, perhaps, but… love is its own reward.

  3. Alan Psurny says:

    When we are loved in the bestowal sense, without rules or conditions, loved for exactly who we are at this moment in time, then we are somehow free to become closer to what we might ideally wish to be. Romantic love may not be essential to life, but it may be essential to joy. Life without love would be, for many people, like a black-and-white movie, full of events and activites but without the color that gives it vibrancy and provides a sence of celebration!
    -C. Hendrick 1992

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