So often we spend most of our time taking care of our physical needs. We make sure our bodies are fed, cleaned, clothed, exercised and rested. We also make sure intellectual stimulation and entertainment is a priority. Yet we also overlook the most important need — love.
Of course, as a society, love is not overlooked. Popular media constantly places great emphasis on what we need to do and how we should look to attract “love”. But being loved is not as powerful an emotional need as that desire to love someone else.
The need to love and care for others is built into us biologically. This need is what allows parents to forgo sleep, food, and sanity while raising their children. This need is what allows people to put themselves at risk to save others from natural disasters and human threats. This need is what makes human society work on both a small and large scale.
Loving others allows us to put the needs and desires of others before our own. We will work harder and longer, sometimes at jobs we loathe, to provide for those we love. We will tolerate otherwise intolerable conditions to provide care for our loved ones whether they are young or old.
Love means to cherish, hold dear, and treasure. We do not hurt, harm, or cause pain to those we love; rather, we seek to relieve their suffering. It is not about wanting people; it’s about wanting people to be happy. It’s not about wanting to possess or control others; it’s about wanting to set them free.
John Oxenham described love this way: “Love ever gives. Forgives, outlives. And ever stands with open hands. And while it lives, it gives. For this is love’s prerogatives – to give, and give, and give.”
Love is the grease that allows the wheel of life to continue turning. For when we love we look beyond ourselves, beyond our needs and desires. We sacrifice our time, our energy, our wishes, and sometimes even ourselves because of love. Sometimes it is for an immediate person or group that we know intimately and love completely, but other times it is for a larger group of people that we don’t really know or perhaps even like. It is love that allows law enforcement and emergency services personnel to face danger. It is love that allows soldiers to risk everything. Love makes heroes every day in every corner of the world. As Thomas ã Kempis said: “Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength… It is therefore able to undertake all things, and it completes many things, and warrants them to take effect, where he who does not love would faint and lie down.”
The ultimate definition of love is not about feeling good but rather about doing good. A perfect example of love in action is Mother Teresa who worked so long and so hard on the behalf of others. However we see it all around us if we look for it. Robert Louis Stevenson said: “The essence of love is kindness.”
Love is important because without it life has no meaning or purpose. As Frank Tebbets says “A life without love in it is like a heap of ashes upon a deserted hearth, with the fire dead, the laughter stilled and the light extinguished.” Love allows us to be more and do more than we could ever accomplish without its power.