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St. Valentine’s Day. What was your first reaction? February 14th is a day that divides opinion – you either love it or loathe it. For one day, the world is supposed to become flooded with modern day Romeos wooing their Juliets. We’re encouraged to reveal our secret crushes, send cards, bestow flowers and romantic gestures on the objects of our affection. Love is in the air, cupid cruising with his bow and arrow.
Personally, I don’t hold much affection for the Hallmark Holiday this has become; I find that once celebrations get tinged by commercialism they lose their meaning. I’ve spent too many years crammed into battery farm restaurants, nose to tail with 500 other nauseating couples, eating the overpriced menu and drinking the underwhelming cava. However, St. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to think about love and how it fits into our lives – regardless of our romantic situation.
What is love?
Love is one of the most used and abused words in our language. It is much more complex than the romantic love that St Valentine’s Day now emphasizes. In its simplest form, love can be defined as a “profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person”. Love is a feeling of concern, empathy and compassion towards another living creature. When we feel love, just for a split second, we go outside our head and put ourselves firmly into the shoes of someone else. We feel their pain, we share their joy, we put their interests on a level with ours. Love in its purest form is about understanding how someone else feels.
Love is All Around
Take a walk around today and you’ll see love in unexpected places. The patient mum caring for her screaming toddler, the group of friends sharing a joke on the bus, the young lady giving up her seat for the pensioner. These actions are all based in love, a feeling of empathy for another person. Love is a shared experience where people recognise that they are not the only person who matters in the world.
Almost every human belief system has a version of the maxim to love your neighbour as you love yourself. This rule is never reserved for one day a year, it is for every day living. Loving others helps to break the bubble of self-absorption that humans can develop. It opens us up what is going on the world around us. Showing love and compassion to others allows us to receive love in return.
Give a Little Piece of your Love
I think I’ve found my peace with St. Valentine. The real St. Valentine was brutally stoned to death for protecting outlawed Christians in the Roman Empire. He gave his own life to protect others, the ultimate act of love. Two millennia later, his example has reinforced the importance of treating others with respect, compassion and care. I’ve started to see love all around me in the simplest human moments. I will strive to treat each person I encounter with the love that I would like to receive. Not just today, but every day. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Photo credit: Mohsen
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