After a series of relationship blows that cost her family, business and career, a friend I met some months ago told me that I must not Love too much. She said that with gravity of regret in her eyes. Though she told me her story without going into details, her old emotions quietly emanated from her face. I nodded with a bit of apprehension. I was caught between the impulse to refute what she had said and the compassion that I felt as I listened to her story. Feeling this immeasurable Love, I became even much more present. Just being there learning her life’s lesson was enough Love that connected our hearts.
Her words are worth the weight of wisdom. She spoke them from the heaviness of her past challenges. She certainly shares them with thousands of people, mostly women, who still carry the weight of losing too much Love. A friend who is mother of 3 young adults struggled many years of pain just to separate with her husband whom she thought would Love her forever, only to discover later that he started an adulterous affair that destroyed their marriage. I keep on hearing mothers telling their friends and kids not to Love their partners too much, not to give every Love that they have, lest they would end up devastated and deprived. As a rule of thumb, they would say that one should keep some Love for oneself, as if Love is some sort of resource that can run out anytime.
What is really too much in Love? Is it giving up your own welfare for the welfare of your loved ones? Is it prioritizing others more than yourself? Is it Loving to the point of losing your soul? Is this the kind of Love that we have learned from our culture? We have subscribed too much to the phrase “too much” that Love has become an endangered resource. Many of us have thought that even if we Love too much, there could be a greater chance that we cannot get Love in return. Love cannot just be reciprocated by anyone as much as we have staked. We have thought that either one must be deserving to be Loved or that one must equate the Love he or she receives so we could completely Love them. This has become a sort of common advise to the extent that it has also become a way of living Love.
Love is, yes, measurable only when we do not measure it anymore.
Often, we Love others only for the sacrifices that they are willing to do, the things they provide, or the money they can spend. Love is not at all measured until we notice that even if we spend so much time, effort, stuff and money for our loved ones, they still do not meet our expectations. They cannot meet our demands. They cannot stay and catch up with our desires. They fall short of their old promises. If any of these are gone, Love disappears. Eventually, quantifiying Love begins. The Love we have given becomes too much, because we have not received much Love in return.
We tend to believe that there is a big problem in this equilibrium. We have Loved too much because its weight is far greater than the weight of Love others can only give. We tend to compare our Love with others’ Love for us that we feel so much disappointed because of the huge disparity. Indeed, a culture of Love like this is problematic, even dangerous. We are so used to it that others become too much indebted to the Love we have given. We have felt too much guilt, shame and frustration for not Loving others as much as they Love us. We have tried to compete on who has more the capacity to Love too much. And we have blamed those whom we have Loved too much for not Loving us that much.
We are led to believe that Love is scarce, and that we are living the Darwinian tenet that the one who survives is the fittest to be Loved. We are led to believe that Love is a rare commodity and a precious resource that we must fight and harm each other in order to gain advantage of getting it. I always find this way of thinking unfortunate because it is in the root of both our personal and global problems. We have been Loving our partners and families at the expense of our sense of deprivation. To use Love as a means of exchange is not really Loving or being Loved at all.
In Jerry Jampolsky’s book Love is Letting Go of Fear, there is an illustration (pp.54-55) of 2 scenarios: a man who has huge sacks of coins he happily gives to people, and another man who happily gives many hearts. The first man eventually runs out of coins, while the second man gets more and more heart as he gives. It perfectly illustrated the paradox of Love. Love is, yes, measurable only when we do not measure it anymore. By then, we will find how immeasurable Love is: we receive more as we give more. Do not be mistaken that such Love is about time, money, effort or things we can give. They are all measurable realities that represent the immensity of Love. But the great Love we can give is far more subtle: compassion for those who suffer, joy for those who are blessed, forgiveness for those who wronged us, understanding for those we cannot understand, acceptance for those we reject, and faith for those we doubt. We cannot measure them, but by our willingness to give them is our rich capacity to give–and receive Love immeasurably, even if it is, indeed, too much.