I realize that title may be misleading.  I’m not talking about romantic love, but the love we are called to exhibit for one another.  I’m talking about the kind of love that is truly about working for the others’ best and wants nothing in return.  That is genuine love.  That is true love.
        Some of you may say that doesn’t exist, but it does.  (Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen or read all the Harry Potter stories) I’ve written before about the kind of love that Snape demonstrates for Lilly.  She didn’t love him back.  She didn’t return his feelings.  And yet he chooses to watch out for her child, a child he can’t stand, because he loved and loves Lilly still.  He knows he will get nothing from her, indeed she is no longer living at the time he chooses these behaviors.  He seeks nothing in return.  He gives fully and completely out of his love for her.
       We see this similarly in the movie, “Love Actually” (again, another spoiler alert).  There is a man in the movie who is in love with his best friend’s wife.  But he chooses out of deep love for both of them to simply distance a bit.  He does not seek to win her over, but he does little things (like making sure that his best friend does not “cheat” on her at his bachelor party, and hiring a surprise wonderful group of musicians for their wedding) that are deep expressions of his love for both of them.  He guises it under his care for his best friend, but as the movie progresses, it becomes clear that in fact, he has done all of this for her.  Again, he seeks nothing back.  He asks for nothing back.  His love is genuine, true, pure, in the deepest sense of the word.  It is not a “trade”, it does not need something back in order to be real, it is not seeking anything.  His love is a gift, freely given.  It is true love in the deepest sense of the word.
        I could go on with examples from movies and books, because our stories are rife with examples of this kind of deep, selfless, true love.  Romantic love, love for siblings, love for children, love for friend – so many amazing stories of the kind of love that asks for nothing in return.
       And in real life?  I think most people have that kind of love for their children.  Of course there are exceptions- parents who reject their kids when their kids become people they don’t like obviously did not give their love freely.  Instead, they give it conditionally upon the child behaving in a certain way or believing certain things or being a specific kind of person.  But I would hope that most parents love their kids unconditionally and fully.  But beyond that?
      I think there is a reason we put this kind of true love into our stories so often.  We all want it.  We all want to be loved in this kind of completely selfless, unconditional, true way.  Many of us want to be able to love like this too – to know that we are capable of unconditional loving.  But the reason these stories are so moving and profound and important to us is that unconditional, true love is rare.  It isn’t the norm.  We expect something back in our love.  I love you so you love me.  I give out of my love to you, so I expect you to give it back to me.  I will care for you, and in return I expect you to agree with me, to support me in my deeply held convictions, to adjust to what I want to do.  It is rare that people have tolerance for the mistakes that others make, or true compassion in the face of perceived hurts, or grace towards others’ best efforts if they aren’t what we think is best, right and in our best interests.  I keep thinking about a blog post I wrote here in April of 2013 after I had just heard a woman on the radio talking about forgiveness.  She said that her fiancé had cheated on her and that she had responded by finding one of his friends and cheating in return. She said that as a result of that, she was now happily married.  She said, “My motto is, ‘a lady’s best revenge is forgiveness…after she’s gotten even.'” Again, this was in 2013.  I would be utterly astonished if I were to discover that they are still married.  That isn’t love.  It isn’t forgiveness.  And it really sets a poor stage for any future trust.  But I fear this behavior is more normative than the true love we all seek, hope for, or want to embody in ourselves.  And that is especially true during times of deep stress like we are all experiencing right now.  It is far too easy to take things out on those around us, and it is far too common to think of one’s own comfort and forget that others are equally stressed and struggling to be their best right now as well.
      We are called to embody those things that we believe to be true, good and right.  So perhaps we need to start by working a little bit harder at loving one another.  Try to offer more grace and compassion, even to those with whom you disagree.  Seek to be kind, even when it is hard.  Practice generous living and thinking.

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