Giving Love

Happy belated Valentine’s Day! I thought I would write a quick note about an activity I shared with the Harvard Divinity School community today that centers on…LOVE!

Candy Hearts

Every week, Harvard Divinity School holds a Wednesday Noon Service hosted by a different religious or spiritual student organization. Today’s noon service was held by a group I am honored to be co-leading this year: the HDS Religious Nones. (In case this term is new for you, “Religious Nones” often refers to those who are unaffiliated with any particular religion, including atheists, agnostics, “the spiritual but not religious,” those with no religious home, and those who are still figuring it all out!)

Seeing that our noon service was the day after Valentine’s Day, we decided to build it on the theme of love. But, not the Valentine’s type of love; not the cheesy, lovey-dovey goodness that is associated with hearts, romance, and couples. While that’s all wonderful in its own way, there’s a different understanding of love that we wanted to focus on; a deeper, less intimate but more sacred type of love that is at the heart of being human.

As the Nones discussed this idea, my co-leader reminded us of an aphorism that my mom has always said, which I had shared at a previous meeting. It is an idea inspired by the spiritual text, A Course In Miracles, which has been read in my family for several generations, and it is an idea that, in my experience, has the power to change the way we look at the world. The aphorism is as follows:

In every situation, people are either giving love or asking for love.
There is no other option.

In every situation, people are either giving love or asking for love. There is no other option.

In other words, people are giving love when they are friendly, kind, thoughtful, inclusive, loving. I generally like to think people function in this category most of the time.

But, I can guarantee that many of us—if not all of us—have our moments where we are not like that. Moments when we are grumpy, tired, rude, hungry, hangry. In other words, moments when we are walking through the world not giving love.

However, what I find so interesting about the idea that people are either giving love or asking for love, is that anything that is not giving love gets classified as asking for love. All of that “bad behavior” I just mentioned is simply a call for love.

Let me tell you from experience, it can be really powerful to recognize the call for love. Now, I’m not saying that we need to go smother every rude person with hugs—sometimes recognizing the call for love is simply giving a person some space. Yet, something about recognizing negative behavior for what it really is, a call for love, has the power to change our reactions to it. It has the opportunity to change a moment of disconnection to a moment of Connectedness.

Have you ever had a day where you were feeling really happy, then you encountered a rude person, and suddenly the rest of your day went sour? I’ve found in those situations, if I have the awareness to recognize that the person is not giving love, and therefore is asking for love, it changes the way I interact with them. I feel more forgiving and less judgmental, more compassionate and less defensive. It can be a pretty powerful change.

Interestingly, as the Nones discussed this idea, we realized that while every call for love requires a tailored response, many of us have a preferred way of responding, a unique and personalized way that we often refer to when giving love.

For example, I often respond to the call for love with gratitude. I give love through expressing my appreciation for other people, for their hard work, for being who they are. From a rude salesperson to a grumpy family member, I generally try to respond with gratitude.

But, as I said, there are many unique ways of responding to the call for love. During our noon service today, other members of the HDS Nones shared that they give love through extending patience, maintaining optimism, being funny, accepting people in their sadness without trying to change it, smiling, telling jokes, and being kind.

Following this sharing, we provided an opportunity for those in attendance to discuss the idea with others around them. Similarly, I invite you to consider, discuss with others (community is important!), and, if you would like, share with me in a comment:

How do you respond to the call for love?
How do you prefer to give love?

Happy giving love!


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