Love is both a deep and wonderful emotion to experience. It can often be unexplainable and is one of the forces that hold many of us together.
Love is shown and received in many different ways, and without it, many of us would not be here today. From the beginning with our parents, love has been part of our lives since we took our first breath on this planet.
As we age, we start to seek love for ourselves and those around us. We find love in completing our favourite hobbies, and we find it in sharing experiences with our friends. Love truly does connect us all, and it is one of the reasons why many of us are also left broken by it.
A while ago, I came across an article explaining that love is a verb. Their argument was that to express love, we must act as though we truly love those around us. For many of us, love becomes something we say to others but never actually show.
For instance, there are many times I have said I love you to my family, yet struggle to find time to see them. Unfortunately, I am not the only one in that boat, with many people struggling to visit their parents once they leave their house.
When we see love in this way, it makes us think about the different ways we can express it does around us. It made me think about how often I show that I love the people I care about.
However, I found that I was asking myself the wrong question. After contemplating how love has been expressed to me in my own life. I find that the better question to ask is, how often am I finding happiness in the joy of others?
Love Is a Charitable Act
Our relationships become toxic when we seek to use others to fill the holes in our own lives. It is how we become self-centred and neglect the feelings of those around us.
Unfortunately, much of the love we see in the world is self-centred love. What we call love is really an opportunity to please ourselves and use others to bring us satisfaction.
For example, many of us say that we love food. However, we love it not because of what it is but because of what it can do for us. The same goes for meat-eaters. They love chicken only because it serves as a function to fulfil their tastebuds.
One may argue that if the meat-eater truly loved chickens, they would stop eating them. Instead, they would want to see it flourish and grow. And if we truly loved food, we would probably spend more time thinking about the environment and what we can do to save it.
True love tends to not be about us. Instead, it is an emotion that causes us to act charitably. Love leads our parents to sacrifice their time, money and careers to support us in the best way possible. In fact, in the early stages of our lives, it is their love that keeps us alive.
Just as a charity seeks to help those in need, love takes a proactive approach to support those we truly care about. And where we find the joy in displaying love is not in ourselves, but the other individual.
Finding Joy in Others Flourishing
As we perform charitable acts for those we care about, we see their joy as our own. Not because of what we have done in their lives, but because of who they have become.
A love that causes us to boast about helping others is self-appraisal. We often find people reminding others of the things they did in their life to help them get to where they are. If we are to find love, we must first take ourselves out of the picture.
We spend so much time thinking about ourselves we tend to miss the joyous moments of others. That may be celebrating their success on the small things or even being there for them when they are happy.
Our small actions of love are charitable ones. And our reward is the flourishing of the other individual. When we make the reward of our love self-centred, we produce selfish love, and this is not love.
We must learn to laugh with those who are happy, despite our current circumstances. We should learn to embrace the joy of others before we seek to express our happiness. Finding joy in another’s flourishing is a purposeful action we take to connect with the other individual.
So, for the most part, love is less about us and more about others. And that is what makes it a unique emotion. Many of the other emotions we experience have us at the centre. Whether that be anger, jealousy, happiness or sadness.
Love has another at the centre. And unless we purposely put the other person at the centre of our charitable actions, we will never find joy in their flourishing. And this is the true reward of love. It is the ability to experience joy in another person’s happiness.
The question of how often you are experiencing joy in another’s flourishing is one that caused me to ponder two things. The first is, how often am I contributing to the joy of others? And the second is, how often am I seeking opportunities to find joy in others’ happiness?
With these two questions at the core of your love for an individual, you will start to change how you show your love. You will begin wanting to celebrate their successes whilst pushing them towards the best that they can be.
Their happiness becomes your happiness, and this is what love means to me. In the ideal relationship, you do not have two people seeking joy from the other person. Instead, you have two people finding joy in each other.
So, if you wish to experience the depths of love, try practising some selflessness. By that, I do not mean through yourself under the bus. I mean practice truly finding happiness in the joy of others.