What is love?
Of the myriad responses to that age-old question, there seems to be much controversy and confusion with people nowadays being so “love-starved” that what often what is passing for “love” is oftentimes dependency, abuse and addiction.
And while we more often focus on practical needs such as food, clothing and shelter, the need for love is rarely listed as fundamental. Could it be that our deep need for justice and our need for love are somehow connected?
“Love is a demonstrative emotion. What does that mean? That means somebody cannot just tell you that they love you. Somebody’s everyday actions must show you that they love you … because we as women everyday listen to various men tell us that they love us and we believe that they love us even when they’re absent everyday or four days a week or seven days a week, even when they’re empty-handed, even when they’re sorry, even when they’re destructive, even when they’re abusive. So it is clear that we … still do not understand the African concept of love, which is that love is a demonstrative emotion.”
~Sistah Souljah, McClymmond’s High School Speech, Oakland, 1996
Going by this definition, love is a verb. It has to be shown, not merely spoken. Words are not enough, although they can be pretty and make us feel good temporarily. They cannot substitute for actions, which tell the real story and respect is a good indicator.
Respect doesn’t mean agreement. It means that the person sees and accepts who you are. Trying to change others is generally a sign of lack of respect. There is no way that someone who does not or refuses to respect you, “loves” you. Love is genuinely supportive. This would be support for the truth of who you are and not who others want you to be.
And then … there are healthy boundaries; when to say yes and when to say no. “Yes” and “no” may just be the two most powerful words in the English language, crucial to love. The key is to know how to utilize them for our advantage and how and why it is important to say “no” even if it may hurt someone’s “feelings.”
Boundaries are what protect and preserve people as well as relationships, in general. Knowing how to set and maintain healthy boundaries is critical to self-love and as the saying goes, “You can’t love anybody until you love yourself first.”
“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.”
It is often said that “God is love.” It is my wish that the awareness that something so divine as love could NOT show up as, envy, greed, jealousy, hatred, destructive criticism, isolation, dependency or violence and that we, as a society, learn the difference. My wish is that those in leadership know that they cannot genuinely lead without loving those they are leading. It is my hope that it be understood that there is no way that people can do all of the things that we do in the community and not have love being the overall arching reason behind it … otherwise, what are we doing it for?
Shifting the culture from one
that is individually-centered, to one where we take care of our needs as a
community, takes effort and an incredible amount of “revolutionary love.” As we
reflect on the meaning of love during this time, this may also include the need
to do some self-reflection, as well; what do we need to do to make what’s
wrong, right within our communities, homes and families? Do we need to
sincerely apologize to someone? Make an amend? Take a class? Read a book? Join
Do whatever it takes to be true and genuine revolutionaries.
Suggested book list about love:
“You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay
“The Art of Loving” Erich Fromm
“The Mastery of Love” Don Miguel Ruiz
“Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie
Your Power to Say 'No'" by Vernon Howard