I wish to discuss two words: Trust and Love. Both seem appropriate in light of recent unfortunate events. Here are two questions to consider. Is it trusted or earned? And second, is love given or won? And since I have two questions, I must confess a third. What is the connection between trust and love?
Once we have answered the first question, we can say that it serves as the pinion of love, the foundation, the rock on which love is built. And there is no question, that is what the world needs now.
So what does it mean to trust? To love? The problem goes back to the beginning of time. In Christianity, the first Adam trusted Eve. He had no reason not to trust her. Sampson had no reason not to trust Delilah. Caesar, although warned to be careful of the Ides of March, had no reason to distrust Brutus. Each found their trust betrayed. What happens when trust is betrayed? I love the files out the window.
To love you have to trust that the other will promote your well-being and happiness. Violating trust and love is lost, perhaps never to return. If you do, you may not be on the same secure foundation as before. How do you get it back? Earn it? Yes! You have to make periodic payments just as you would in your bank account. And then maybe when the account has been active for a while, the trust can come back. If you do, it will be in the name of love. It is trust that engenders harmony and peace; it is trust that engenders that love that every human being seeks.
Dr. Robert Frey reminds us that we must do everything possible to create a reality based on love. In doing so, we must realize that it is a “moment-to-moment affair.” So how do you love? Let’s first see if we can come up with a working definition. I love chocolate, Sailors, mystery novels. I love my pet. Love Love Love. And not an ounce of understanding. The word Love has been so overused that it has become almost empty. So how do we take something that has almost lost its meaning and put it back? This question is really no different than the question about trust.
Confidence is given. Love is given .. Is trust given with conditions? Only if you have been raped. Do you need to read the fine print to know if you are trusted? Isn’t that what prenuptial agreements or pre-assigned responsibilities are within a relationship – fine print conditions?
The musical muses tell us that “love is a thing of many splendors”. We are told that ‘love is what makes the world go round’ and we are told that ‘love is the greatest’. However, don’t we all put restrictions on its natural flow? Don’t we have reservations because love is an unconditional commitment? After all, isn’t conditional love something that can be turned on and off? A conditional love requires that one partner do something that pleases the other. At the simplest level, a child picks up his toy from the ground because his mother says “How sweet. I love you, honey.” The message that such behavior conveys is that one must earn love. It is very likely that perfectionists and those who please people have experienced love conditionally and have never really felt it. They have not experienced that unconditional commitment. What box!
Dare I ask for a commitment to what? To faith that love will be returned? In Christianity, it is remembered that “faith to move mountains” is worthless without love. We are told that even philanthropy without love is devoid of spirituality. In love, we give to others. That is the essence of philanthropy; it is the essence of faith and should be the basis of our interaction with each other. When one loves, there has been a choice, an express wish for the happiness of another person. We call that benevolence. The commitment, then, is with a personal behavior that reflects benevolence.
Don’t confuse benevolence with altruism. Altruism dictates that you sacrifice yourself for the benefit of others; that is, your needs claim your actions and behavior and even your life. If I can borrow a term from today’s computer jargon, benevolence allows; allows you to achieve your value from relationships with other people. Benevolence is not based on the misfortunes of others; while altruism seems to be driven by that fact. The simple act of giving someone the benefit of the doubt creates an avenue for benevolent behavior, the opportunity to demonstrate the value of unconditional love. When that love is a commitment to a personal behavior that derives value from life itself, from interaction with others and with society as a whole, then you are benevolent. Matthew Fox has said: “Compassion is not a moral command, but a flow and overflow of the fullest human and divine energies.” That is benevolence.
If a man wants to build a house, he uses wood. You must also provide a hollow space within that house; void of wood, therefore both wood and the absence of wood are necessary to build that house. Building a loving relationship is similar. The builder of love must bring values (wood) and time (space) to the relationship. Doing the opposite results in a house built of sand. It can’t be like the changing position if you want a loving, personal, and long-lasting relationship. If so, there is no permanence. It will have slipped through your fingers before you had a chance to grasp it, taste it, savor its delicacy.
The late syndicated columnist Jim Bishop wrote an inspiring essay titled Love something apart. In it, he says, ‘Love is giving. It is the unification of two people in one. It is possession and being possessed. But they are also jealousy, hostility, insecurity and despair. It is the only thing that must resuscitate every day ”. Trust applies here because one trusts that there will be a resurrection. Love allows us to experience life and connect in a positive way. Denying the existence and experience of love, choosing not to practice it, denies your divinity. And that’s the sin! Denying your spirituality; a condemnation of all that is divine.
Buddhists tell us to pay close attention to the other person, to listen to what is actually being said so that we can recognize the source of what it is feeling. If you do, you can respond with care and compassion. And isn’t that benevolence? And isn’t that love? Of course it is. But at the same time, it is much more. It is the total and complete recognition of the divine in all life. Swami Vivekananda has written, ‘Real existence, real knowledge and real love are eternally connected to each other, all three in one; where one of them is, the others must be.
We make the mistake of loving the wrong way. A man, for example, loves his wife. He wants her to be with him at all times, to sit by his side at social functions, to eat with him, to walk with him. He calls her several times a day from his workplace. This makes him a slave to its existence. This is not Love. Love would free her to be all that she could be. And if she, in turn, loves him, she would help him cut the umbilical cord that has tied him. After all, it is a mutual thing. Every act of love should bring happiness and joy, if not a sense of wonder. In real love, love does not deliberately cause pain or suffering. If it does, there has been corruption.
To finish, I want to leave you a small fragment that a friend shared with me. Its author is unknown. Its titled The essence of compassion. “Make up your mind to be tender with the young, compassionate with the elderly, understanding with the hungry and tolerant of the weak and wrong, because at some point in your life you will have been all that.”