What is this thing we so loosely call “Love”? We may say we love some people—but not others. There are endless songs about falling “in love” or out of it; yearning for it or pining after the “loved one” who is no longer part of our lives. We use the word love both as a blessing—as well as a curse: “For the love of God” can be an exasperation for another’s actions. We may say that “God is Love”, but believe that some are damned to exist “outside” of that all-loving presence.
We can enjoy sexual union with our “beloved” and call it “making” love; how, exactly, the sex act somehow “becomes” love—what it always supposed to be, is unclear. If a child is the result of this “love-making”, how is it that not every child is the product of “love” and some are then “unwanted”? An infant is unconditionally loving at birth, but quickly learns that receiving love comes with conditions. How unfortunate that we then teach children to be less of what they were born to be!
As we grow, we’re taught to give love sparingly. Well-intentioned adults—parents, guardians, school teachers alike—teach these naturally-loving children to withhold and dispense love like it’s a precious, rare substance; a limited resource which must be judiciously rationed out with extreme care. We learn that some people and situations deserve our love, while others don’t. It’s as if we have a “love meter”—tallying how much love we get against the quantity received.
Considering this quantification of love, it’s easier to understand how we then ascribe this to the Divine—“God”—who somehow requires that we love “Him”. The concept of an all-loving God, who needs love from us before “He” will give it, is part of most organized religions. If God doles out love, it’s even more understandable that we believe we have to, too.
While it’s true that love is all there is, and God is love, we have been conditioned since birth to believe otherwise. In a world where “love”—especially in terms of sexual “favors”—is such a scarce and rationed resource, we instinctively withhold it—hoard it—more than we are willing to give it. Add to this subtractive equation, the inherent fear that is also taught to us from our pre-verbal and nascent awareness of the world around us, it is even more understandable that we fear most what we “understand” least—this thing we so casually call “love”.