How To Love Others And Yourself selflessly
Every day can be a good day for development, regardless of the crises that come along our way. It’s in times of emergency and conflict that we realize that love is the most important thing in life. We need to love others as we love ourselves. But what is the meaning of love, this vague feeling? Let’s explore how to love yourself and how to love others selflessly and unconditionally.
self-centredness counteracts love
I see it in myself almost every day. I do work a lot and stay fixated on my projects and personal goals, therefore I can clearly see how my focus becomes this personal little bubble where I disregard other people around me. It can happen that I’m so occupied with myself and with what I’m doing that I might get angry about every little thing that tries to distract me. For me this is a clear sign of too much self-centredness, of too much egoism.
We associate egoism with negative feelings like greed, hatred, jealousy, but egoism can also come in a more refined form. It’s this refined form of egoism which is most dangerous to personal life, because it makes us act selfishly without realizing that we’re being selfish.
Every time you keep talking about your own petty problems as if you were the only victim in the world, you’re being selfish. If you don’t show any willingness to actually listen to what other people have to say, you’re being selfish. When you make a fuss about someone trying to give you a calm and constructive criticism because you feel attacked personally without sufficient grounds, you’re being selfish. Every time you take your Amazon parcel from the postman without even looking at him or at least giving him a grateful smile for the delivery, you’re being selfish.
The list could go on and on. We have to be on our guard that we don’t become so self-absorbed that we forget to interact with the world.
That’s the point when I realize that I became too obsessed with my passions and goals, For a while I forget the people whom I should engage with. Bad days that take you out of your self-absorption can definitely be a good wake-up call to remember what matters most. And what matters most is... LOVE - unconditional love for your family and friends, for the people around you and humanity in general. I try to keep this in my mind especially in times of conflict and on bad days. It’s important not to vilify the other person whom you fall out with, only because they thought differently. That's a part of the meaning of love.
All the daily challenges I experience in life really make me think what true love and self-love really mean practically. “I love you” are the most important words you can possibly say to someone. And love seems to include so many things. But what is love? How to love someone truly and deeply? What is the meaning of selfless love? Are there many types of love? And if yes, what’s the highest form of love? How do you act based on love? I realised that this question has been answered thousands of years ago in ancient Greece. Hear me out.
meaning of love: 4 types
People in ancient Greece, roughly 2500 years ago, had a very nuanced concept of love. They distinguished between at least 8 types, but I’m going to focus on only 4 that I find most important and relevant for our purpose. These four types are Eros, Philia, Platonic love and Agape.
Eros means romantic, passionate love. Eros is lust, pleasure, passion. It’s the natural, sexual attraction and desire between two people. In Greek mythology this passionate love was represented as the winged god of love, the son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Ares, the god of war. This makes perfect sense as desire by its nature is unrestrained, uncontrolled, blind and chaotic. It’s a fire that always has the potential to get out of control and overwhelm us.
That’s why Eros, the passionate love based on pleasure, was also considered dangerous as it involves a loss of control through the impulse to procreate. So it’s perfectly understandable that Eros’ father was Ares, the god of war and conflict. I’m telling you, the Greeks really were on something here.
Philia is the dispassionate, virtuous love that we call “friendship" and is usually between equals. It’s the loyalty to friends, family, community, all the noble feelings you have towards people around you with whom you have a special connection, but without the romantic or sexual aspect.
At this point I would like to mention the concept of platonic love. The term is based on the Greek philosopher Plato, although he himself never used that term. All problems in western philosophy can be traced back to Plato anyway. According to him, platonic love is the type of selfless love which is not romantic. Platonic love is a special emotional and spiritual relationship between two people who love and admire one another because of common interests, a spiritual connection, and similar world views. It does not involve any type of sexual activity. Love between two friends, like the aforementioned Philia or bromances between two men are a type of platonic love. When two people share a lot of common interests this creates a bond between them in a very intimate way on the mental level. This special connection is platonic love.
Now we come to the noblest, highest, the most important type of love - AGAPE. Agape is selfless, universal love. It’s brotherly, unconditional love, charity, love of other people, nature, animals and everything around you. If you’re a religious person, you could say it’s the transcendent love of God for man and of man for God.
No matter what expression you use here, AGAPE is the highest ideal, the highest expression of love which includes everything and everyone. It is an ideal probably too high for an average person to realise in praxis, but it’s important to know that such a state of the mind is possible and real, something that can give you comfort and put the daily struggles in perspective.
We realize that the meaning of love is purest altruism, and that it can mix with various grades of personal selfishness. No one is perfect. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s the same with our expressions of love. Agape is the goal, where you want to end up. But the way there is filled with our imperfections, mistakes, trials and errors. Yet it remains the ultimate goal and the ideal that everyone can and should pursue if you want to achieve a wide sense of peace and meaningfulness in life.
how to practice love
We realize that love is a complex feeling and that you can love different people in many different ways. It also becomes clear how complicated human psychology is and that one label doesn’t really express the complexity of human experience.
Now that we made some distinctions and understand the meaning of love, what does that all mean in praxis? How do you show this universal love for others and yourself in daily life? You might think, your life is too simple, too boring, too mundane for the heroic acts. You couldn’t be more mistaken. The true value is revealed in the simplest things, and there’s a whole plethora of acts you can do to express agape, the universal love.
little things that matter
How did you talk to your colleague at work today? Did you help him? Did you say hello to her? Did you react with anger to someone for trivial reasons? If you did, there’s that truly heroic act of redemption at your disposal called reconciliation. Everyone makes mistakes, and you’ll always be making mistakes. So who did you reconcile with today? Be ready to bear the consequences of your missteps and to do everything in your power to restore balance in your relationships.
Remember, phrases like “thank you”, “excuse me” are usually the only type of kindness that we can show to a stranger to express the inner meaning of love. Never ever underestimate the power of simple politeness.
When you debate a precarious topic with someone, do you listen to his arguments? Do you give her the benefit of the doubt? Are you willing to admit that the other might still have some value points that you should justly acknowledge, although you disagree? Intellectual honesty is an expression of love too, because love and truth cannot be separated. See through the layers of human imperfections, focus rather on the better part in a person, and ignore the weaknesses. That’s how you empower people.
How are your parents doing? If you had to die today, would you have unresolved grievances against your family or would you be at peace knowing you did your best to show them all your love? If you feel remorse, go, reconcile now!
What I mostly struggle with is to keep my speech calm and slow when I feel accused of something I didn’t do or when things get too complicated to explain. I don’t mind being misunderstood, but somehow there’s often that automatic emotional reaction that sets in. I can see it happen, I know it’s an illusion, but it’s still very powerful in its expression.
I know in that moment that I have to take a step back, pull the brake, and talk slowly to keep control of how I convey my message. It’s a matter of self-control, and I often fail in this. But continuous trial and error brings you ever closer to personal refinement. If you progress well with self-control, it becomes possible for you to express love even in the darkest hour of your day.
That was it, lovely people - the meaning of universal love of all and everything and how to truly love others and yourself! All the types of love are just specific expressions towards specific people under specific circumstances: family bonds, friendship, politeness, intellectual honesty, selflessness, compassion… you can take any noble feeling you want, and you can be 100% sure that it derives from that one big source of the highest inner power accessible to us: LOVE.
With this realization in mind, I hope you found this insightful, inspirational and not too pathetic. Stay safe and see you in the next one.