I Love You, Ya, Ya, Maybe!
America is awash in red. No the communists aren’t coming (well maybe they are). But for now, it is Valentine’s decorations which envelop storefront windows and red velvet boxes that line supermarket shelves. Love is definitely in the air—this week. But, come Wednesday morning when all the ruddy-wrapped accessories are stripped away and the only remnants of “loving” are a hangover, a half-eaten box of chocolates and scattered lingerie, many will find themselves singing that famous Foreigner song, “I Want to Know What Love is.” Tragically, Whitney Huston’s short life reveals that even “learning to love yourself is [actually not] the greatest love of all.” Perhaps self-centered love is the worst of all because in our day and age we don’t even know how to love ourselves properly. All our efforts at “self-improvement” which mask as self-love, i.e., going the gym, striving for success, marrying for money, getting plastic surgery, lead to self-worship, not really to self-love. When our hearts are filled with too much self-worship, how can there ever really be room for another occupant, even God? Our every interaction with others, even those we profess to adore, will always be fettered by the self-serving interests of our primary lover, ourselves. How can we then keep the commandment to “love our neighbors as ourselves” when we can’t even love ourselves properly? In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we hate ourselves because we are rotting at the core. Basic human decency and compassion have become a valueless currency. I’m not surprised that in our time a bestselling book can be titled: Why Men Love Bitches. Being kind is so yesterday! We have become overly seduced by visuals and not by substance. A recent study came out that said people who use Facebook too much tend to develop a poor self-image because they get jealous observing how well others are doing. Imagine that, mere status updates on a social networking site can drive our self-love into the dumpster—boy we must be a really deep and confident society, NOT! If we are obliged to love our neighbor as ourselves, it is no wonder that everyone hates each other these days and that razor sharp divisiveness is tearing the world apart. And that is because we have learned to love ourselves and others for the wrong reasons. Go figure that we are a rhinoplasty-crazed society and yet we never looked so ugly. I’m reminded of the book, The Picture of Dorian Gray, wherein the main character remains breathtakingly handsome while a portrait made of him becomes ever more ugly and deformed as he sins and becomes morally corrupt. The canvas reflects the ugliness and degradation of his soul, but his personage continues to be adored because of his exterior beauty and success. There is only one true guiding love affair that will sustain us in life and that is our love affair with God. And the Almighty does not leave his love affair with people to chance or have them singing “I want to know what love is.” He explains explicitly what He wants by his laws and decrees. How often in our lives do we walk away from a relationship saying, “I gave that person everything I have and they didn’t appreciate it? The better question is, “Did you give them anything THEY wanted or needed?” Jews can keep a perfect “Sabbath” on Wednesdays but at the end of the day would that mean anything to God who asked that the Jews keep it on Saturday? Perhaps love is not about giving what YOU want to give to yourself or to others, but rather doing what you don’t feel like doing and giving what you don’t have--be it time, patience, understanding, a helping hand or a compassionate heart, etc. The Bible is the best love story ever told. In adoring God and keeping his commandments we imbue ourselves with true self-worth and with lasting and authentic reasons to love ourselves and to be loved. When on Facebook be jealous not that someone got a new car or a new job, but rather that a friend went out to give charity and help others that day and you did not. You want to know what love is? Ask God. He has never whispered a sweet nothing in our ear.