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Love and Maturity

A first love can be quite painful, its intensity comparable to an infant’s unmet desire for food or touch.

Young immature love seeks to fulfill an unmet need.  Seeking comfort in the form of reassurance that you are indeed lovable, or yearning attentiveness to fill a void borne of experiences of feeling ignored, neglected or unimportant. Sometimes a love-relationship becomes the battleground where power is wielded: each skirmish a struggle for control and domination.  Inflicting pain or humiliation appears a measure of strength and the capacity for aggression the weapon.  For others, this relationship is the theater where the drama of martyrdom and self-sacrifice is acted out, and harm and suffering are in the script.

Immature love finds solace when it feeds the needs of the wounded self.  Giving is manifest with self-interest and measured in proportion to receiving.   Hungry and scared, it craves its next dose, holding one’s affection from the other as hostage.  Each one’s weakness manifests as strength in another, the struggle over power to control the other’s behavior.  Persisting brinkmanship suggests a looming possibility of an all out war.  The ultimate weapon is the threat of sustained withdrawal that can persist in silence and distance despite all manner of attacks.

Mature love is that which bleeds a thousand wounds, yet endures in strength and beauty.  Withstanding sorrows and separation, its resilience is an indicator for its maturity.   The adaptability of mature love allows for durability  – it can bend without breaking, weave without warping, and transform while retaining its truth in its essence.

Mature love finds meaning in its own purity, its purpose and procedure are one and the same: love for the sake of loving and loving for love itself.  A mature loving relationship engenders beauty in its many forms; it is a force of creation, harmony and peace.

The Heart of the Matter

There is no such thing as loving too much. That is a fallacy that has emerged from the economics-driven transactional notion of relationships.  To love is to give.  Giving, when deliberate, unconditional and selfless in intent, is always appropriate to the situation.

Kind thoughts, gentle words, affectionate feelings that intentionally offer significance to another’s needs are acts of love.  The act of material giving is only a part of love.  Extending one’s self in the service of another’s needs is loving. When we say she has a big heart, we usually mean that she is generous, attending to the needs of others, often putting aside her own.  Afterall when someone is generous only to bind a reciprocal transaction, one is hardly referred to as big-hearted.  Giving in that scenario is a loan conditioned on an expected payback.  Payback can be recalled in the manner of an equitable material transaction or through the fulfillment of an emotional need, such as approval or self-importance.  Selfless giving has no expectation of a reciprocal response attached: that is loving.

Imagine the Universe being filled with love and the heart as a basket in the center. The bigger the basket, the more love it can contain.  The size of the basket of the heart is a metaphor for the capacity to love.   Acts that reflect the faces of love such as mercy, generosity, compassion, and faith contribute to the unlimited expansion of the basket.

Enhancing one’s capacity to love is like conditioning one’s body. Disciplined effort and conscious practice – giving for the sake of loving itself – is exercise for the expansion of the heart.  The more we love, the bigger the heart grows, and the bigger the heart, the more it can receive.  The experience of being loved, understood, cared for and valued can be felt in direct proportion to the size of one’s heart. Physics meets spirituality.  It can feel the expanse of the Universe’s generosity, the depth of its compassion, and the intensity of its affection.  Such is the glory of the heart and its ever-related relationship with the Universe.

While the heart grows with the acts of loving, it contracts in response to the acts of un-loving. When it contracts it becomes smaller.  The Universe never stops giving, it is only the shrunken heart that inhibits receiving.

A heart may be bruised and battered.  There is a very real pain when the heart contracts and shrivels.  The throbbing ache in the chest is real: heart-wrenching.  There is, however, no such thing as a broken heart.  That is another fallacy.   That is because broken implies beyond repair.  Fear of loss often breeds mistrust, jealously, greed, or aggression: experiences that inherently devalue another’s needs as inferior or insignificant as compared to one’s own.  The heart, no matter how bruised and battered, always retains its capacity to give, thus to mend, repair, and heal.

The heart is bruised when we give in order to get. It is battered when loving is intentioned to receive: sometimes we give in order to be rescued from our shrunken heart, the debilitated nature of our embittered selves.  A shriveled heart can hold no love.  Hearts shrivel when the giving is conditional, stipulated, or restricted. That is, we give because:

we want something in particular
we want it from a particular source
we want it at a certain time

Love is selflessness.  What the heart gives, the Universe replenishes in abundant supply.  Such is Grace.