“Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.”
~ Leo Buscaglia
We have arrived at that gift-giving and receiving time of year – ushered in with spectacular fanfare by the incredible blast of the commercial horn called “Black Friday”. As we take deep breaths, and summon our courage, we set out to seek the elusive mall parking space, run the gauntlet of throngs of shoppers and search futilely for a harried salesperson to assist us. Or, we can go forth into cyberspace and explore strange new markets, seek out new products and exotic bargains; to boldly go where no consumer has gone before.
All too often, we lose sight of the real, underlying meaning of this Christmas season. (I refuse to use the politically correct “Holiday” season. The holidays exist to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ – and if non-Christians have a problem with that… too bad! Stay home! Stay out of the malls! Okay, I finished my rant – lol!)
As I was saying, the message of this season is about giving. God so loved the world that he gave us his only-begotten son. It was a genuine act of love. Today, I am moved to use the words of Leo Buscaglia (1924-1998), the American author and motivational speaker, to clarify a definition of love that I find profound.
Buscaglia talks about love as a gift – freely given. Love can never be coerced or expected in kind. If it is either of these things, we reduce it to an exchange – a trade if you will. If you love me, I’ll love you. It reminds me of the anguish felt by a person who receives a Christmas card in the mail, realizing that they did not send the other person a card. Or the person who decides not to send Sally a card because Sally didn’t send her a card last year.
Thinking carefully about these words, I begin to examine my conscience in this regard. Do I give a gift to someone I love without expectation? Here’s a tougher question. Do I give the gift of my love without strings, or is it conditional? As Buscaglia suggests, am I loving only to get love?
It is no secret that every human being needs to be loved. This quest for love goes way beyond any want or desire – all the way to need. As I mull this concept over, a voice in my head reminds me of what the nuns at my school often said. They taught us that anything we give to others is returned to us ten-fold. I remember thinking at the time that this was gratifying, but I doubted it was true – or I’d have to wait until I died and went to heaven to cash in.
Life experience has taught me that the nuns were correct. When we do what Buscaglia encourages us to do, to love for the sake of loving, then we find love showered upon us in ways we never dreamed possible. I believe this happens because the act of loving in this way, bares our souls for all to see. The beauty that we behold takes our breath away. We become like a magnet and draw people to ourselves – and they are helpless. They love because of the innate goodness of our souls.
That sounds pretty simple. It is simple! It is not easy. Make no mistake; we will work toward this model for our entire lives. This magical Christmas season gives us the opportunity to practice this art of love. So let’s stop complaining and embrace the opportunity to love more perfectly!