Love is in the air this week, in case you’ve missed the card and chocolate stands emblazoned with reminders of February 14th being Valentine’s Day. We have been commercially encouraged everywhere it seems to deliver our love in the form of chocolates, flowers, cards and well, whatever else we might be willing to stretch to in the name of love, since January 1st or thereabouts, so really if you’ve missed it ’til now, we can assume you’ve been cocooned for one reason or another.
This week just passed, as I queued up to pay for bread in my local shop and eyed yet another Valentine’s card stand, I couldn’t help but wonder what St. Valentine would make of it all? Surely his be-heading, and anniversary of same, wasn’t meant to be all about Hallmark cards and heart shaped chocolates, was it?
There are varying accounts of this man (also known as Valentinus), but all seem to agree that he was determined to put his God before everything else, including Emperor Claudius II back in the third century, and that this didn’t sit well with the powers of the day. Indeed, it is said that even as he waited in jail to meet his death for continuing to declare himself a Christian, and for defying the Emperor and continuing to marry couples, that he healed the daughter of his jailer, of her blindness and deafness, so determined was he to do God’s work and thus act out of love for all humanity, regardless of how badly he was being treated by humanity itself, even in that same moment!
How many of us can do the same… reach out and love regardless of how we are being treated?
Martin Luther King Jr. was another in history who reminded us of the importance of choosing love in the face of the hatred and darkness of humanity, famously saying, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” thus making the only logical response to hate and darkness in our world, love and light from ourselves.
We’ve all had the knocks in life, the hurts and sometimes the wounds that don’t seem to heal. But we often repeatedly stoke and poke at them by re-living them in our heads, or re-hashing them with others, which intensifies rather than diminishes the anger, sorrow, loss, disappointment, or grief that we are feeling.
Yet we know that any wound, physical or emotional, needs balm, care, and time to heal. Why then, so often do we treat our emotional wounds with stoking, rather than care, why do we dig our heels in rather than seek to heal from, why do we agitate to the point of causing them to fester rather than applying the balm they need?
Perhaps our pride, our anger, our hurt just takes over, but when they do, we are creating not just emotional misery for everyone else, but ourselves too. And it’s not just emotional misery. It gets physical too, because negative emotions apparently encourage the release of negative chemicals like cortisol and copious amounts of adrenaline in our bodies, which can be quite corrosive to our organs and inner workings.
So what does choosing the light, or the love that Martin Luther King Jr talked about really look like and how do we do it in real life?
Well, according to English writer and philosopher, Aldous Huxley, “There isn’t any formula or method. You learn to love by loving”.
And if we take a steer from St. Valentine, it’s taking the road of kindness and a continued willingness to help another, perhaps not necessarily your aggressor, but indeed maybe so too. The idea is to consciously keep love going regardless of how human folly may be negatively affecting our own lives in that same moment.
It’s fair to say that nothing could be further from our natural inclination in the moment of hurt, but perhaps finding a way to live with this kind of love in our hearts, is indeed how we not only don’t get stuck in hatred and darkness, but how we stay well and even heal.
So to all of you, I wish you all the ability to love regardless this Valentine’s Day, and of being loved regardless, and however that can be channelled to, or from you, may it bring you joy… and maybe even a few flowers and chocolates too. I think St. Valentine might be happy enough with that way of honouring him.
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