Excerpted from The Quest
It's a familiar story by now, well documented in research journals: infants in orphanages or similar institutions tend to be lethargic, smaller in stature than normal, and have weaker vital signs than other babies. They are given the physical necessities—food and drink, and medication if needed—but these are not enough to keep them well. However, if someone holds and caresses the children, rocks them in their arms as often as possible, gently talks to them, and loves them, suddenly the children begin gaining weight at a normal rate and their health and mortality rate is dramatically improved.
Conventional wisdom would say that the children improve simply because they are given massive amounts of love, and that love was the medicine which released the natural hormones and enzymes needed for normal growth and health. Scientific evidence seems to confirm this conventional Wisdom.
Yet in an earlier teaching, we learned that God has created all of us as complete, that like the egg developing in its shell, there is nothing that can be added to give us more potential. On the surface, it would seem that the children were suffering because they needed love to develop normally, and that having been deprived of love, they developed abnormally.
But we are spiritual beings. As creations of God, we are whole and complete and, therefore, nothing has to be added to us, only released from us. Love must be released.
If we reflect on this story spiritually, we come to a different conclusion: the children became healthier not because they were loved, but because they were given the opportunity to love! That's a crucial difference. Love was not given to them; it was released from them. We cannot be fully alive until we express the love we have. We don't have to receive it from others. In fact, we can't receive love from others! We have no room for it. All that we can do is to allow others' love for us to be a catalyst for the release of our own love.
We receive true love only from God. Only when we allow love to pour from the God of love through our hearts to the hearts of others are we expressing love the way Jesus told us we should.
Even Scrooge Learned to Love
Scrooge, the protagonist of Dickens' classic tale A Christmas Carol, was an unloving, mean-spirited, unfeeling, cruel, utterly distasteful man who was completely unloved and, ostensibly, unlovable. He lived a miser's life. He hoarded everything, not giving of himself, his feelings, or his possessions.
However, when he finally was forced to recognize his greater self, he made a complete turnaround. He began loving everyone and found such joy in giving to and helping others that his life took on new significance. Although his love was not immediately reciprocated, he was so caught up in releasing the love that he had, that it didn't matter if anyone loved him in return. It didn't stop him nor did it discourage him from loving.
Scrooge felt good, not because he felt loved, people were too suspicious of his motives to love him. He felt good simply because he loved. Suddenly, Scrooge loved loving! The very act of loving others was satisfaction enough for him.
In this wonderful novel and through this extraordinary character, Dickens has communicated the great lesson of love: Love is not a commodity that we can acquire and hoard. Love can only be released.
"How Can I Get More?"
The real question is not, How can I get more love? It is, How can I express more of the love that I already have?
We may resist this idea because we have always given love so that we could receive love. This is conditional love. Implicit in this love is, I’ll give you love as long as you give me love." Yet love doesn't work that way—not true love, not Christ love. True love is expressed not to be reciprocated but to make us completely alive.
Children instinctively do this. When unhappy, when feeling unloved, a child hugs a favorite stuffed animal. In the hugging, in the loving, the child feels better. Why? Was it the teddy bear that loved the child? Hardly. The teddy bear is just a heap of wool and cotton and thread and button eyes. Stuffed animals contain no love, but the child does! As the child hugs and cuddles the animal, love, the essential truth of that child's being, is expressed and the child feels the warmth of love.
As adults, we can hug stuffed animals and feel the warmth of love ourselves, but there is a more preferable method that works faster and infinitely better. It is to express love as Jesus directed: "Love one another."
Jesus’ Only Commandment
Imagine the power of Jesus, a man who was able to command the forces of the universe. He could have made many pronouncements on how to take charge of this power, yet He chose only one commandment to pass on to us: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." Unconditionally was how Jesus loved.
We can love unconditionally. In fact, at some point we must. Yet it's not as hard as it may seem because unconditional love, Christ love, is the most natural of all love. To love another is the most instinctive of all reflexes. The fact that we may have trouble doing it is not that it is an unnatural trait so much as it is a forgotten trait. We are and always have been capable of unconditional love—true love. It is the most natural part of us because it is the substance of God.