By the time you are reading this, Valentine’s Day will be a memory… for some good, others not so good. All the leftover candy and heart shaped trinkets will be relegated to the clearance shelf of all our retailers and the flower and greeting card industries will be excitedly anticipating Mother’s Day. So much for celebrating the Christian martyr St. Valentine (or older Roman celebration Lupercalia).
I was just pondering over all the tokens of affection and pledges of love given in and around February 14. The mood enhancing chocolate, the sweet scent of colorful flowers in the midst of winter and the cards which cost as much as the chocolates these days. But is that really love? I admit we have so abused the word “love” it is hard to really define anymore: I loved the game; I loved the party; I love that outfit; I loved the movie; I loved the food… it goes on and on. Do we really “love” all those things, or just receive some sort of gratification from them?
I tried looking “love” up in the dictionary, but there was no simple definition… and rightly so. I think, however, all the different definitions hold some commonalities. One is they almost assume a connection that has moved beyond a feeling of sympathy to one of empathy. I mean sympathy is a feeling for another person, an understanding of their joys and sorrows, but empathy is deeper. Empathy is feeling what another person is feeling… we might say walking in their shoes. I think this leads us to a whole new understanding of other people and can lead us to compassion.
I know sympathy, empathy and compassion are often used as synonyms for one another, but they are very different. I believe that once you feel another person’s pain, you are motivated to try and relieve that pain… that is compassion. When we say we love our spouse, I believe it is a renewal of our wedding vows to “have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” When we tell a friend we love them, we are pledging we will be with them through the good and bad of life.
I bring all this up because I believe our world could use more compassion and love. Not just on one day of the year, but every day. We need to daily step out of our selfish mindsets and into the shoes of another. Imagine what a world we would have if we truly had compassion for one another regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, or religious beliefs. In my beliefs, that is what God is hoping we figure out having ALL been created in God’s image. As I click to the newsfeed and I witness the hurt and brokenness and violence portrayed before me in Hi-Def living color, I can’t help but feel what the world needs now is love, sweet love in its truest form. God help us all.