Five Ways to Express True Love
"Love one another" is a divine admonition that exists in every religion, but human history is littered with mankind's failures to do so. George Townshend, in his book, Heart of the Gospel comments, "No church, for example, has ever adopted the challenging test for membership used by Jesus Himself for His disciples: 'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.'" (from Bible, John xiii. 34-35.) - First edition, p. 114
The Bahá'í faith teaches that the purpose of this material creation is that humanity should be engaged in developing virtues such as love and compassion that will be needed in the spiritual world for eternity. "To express his gratitude for the favors of God, man must show forth praiseworthy actions. In response to these bestowals, he must render good deeds, be self-sacrificing, loving the servants of God, forfeiting even life for them, showing kindness to all the creatures." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 236
Most religious texts sing the refrain that God created humanity out of love. Love is what holds the universe together, but how? Perhaps the problem is in how we define the word love, which can be either a verb or a noun, but is best described as a verb: in actions. The entertainment and marketing industries in the US give the impression that love is mostly about reproduction, with sex being its highest expression. Ask anyone about what love means, however, and the answers will be couched in terms of behaviors, only a few of which have anything to do with romance.
From the perspective of building character, these five behaviors speak strongly of love:
1. Listening: the act of actually paying attention to someone else, to hear and genuinely want to know what is important to him/her, has been judged by the recipient as the most important sign of being loved.
2. Support: to speak out for what is right, especially in support of one another. Knowing that someone is on your side is vital to feeling loved and respected. Even more important was expressing belief in someone's ability to achieve his/her dreams.
3. Sacrifice: willingness to give materially, as well as share information, even when it means personal loss. Preferring the needs of others before one's own.
4. Willingness to express love for oneself and God through prayer, and to hold onto faith in the face of limitations and obstacles. Modeling these behaviors and attitudes provides a powerful role model and hope for others.
5. Forgiveness: Perhaps the most difficult expression of love is to forgive others their mistakes, and to forgive oneself for failing to meet lofty expectations.
These are not the only ways to show love, but they are important and manageable, and even small changes can be achieved quickly. Progress in developing such virtues can be measured on a daily basis, and is recognized almost immediately, little by little, day by day.
"My hope is that through the zeal and ardour of the pure of heart, the darkness of hatred and difference will be entirely abolished, and the light of love and unity shall shine; this world shall become a new world; things material shall become the mirror of the divine; human hearts shall meet and embrace each other; the whole world become as a man's native country and the different races be counted as one race." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London, p. 38
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