Trying To Be A Better Valentine

Full disclosure: I’m preaching to myself here. Valentine’s Day is a good day to love a little more. Hug those that are close to you just a little bit tighter. Kiss your wife (or husband) with a little more passion. Send a note to someone that you’ve neglected. Call a friend just to say hello. Help carry a load. Mend a quarrel. Make peace. And try to do it unconditionally.

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Conditional love is love that is ‘earned’ on the basis of conscious or unconscious conditions. In other words, if you do what I want or behave in a manner that is pleasing to me, I will love you. If not, then my love will likely be withheld. Sadly this is often true. I’m not talking so much about romantic love here, although I suppose it works that way sometimes, too. I’m referring to my relationships with friends and colleagues. I’m thinking of work associates, neighbors, classmates, fellow parishioners, and friends. I often find myself questioning whether or not to spend time with someone because of something that was said or done that “rubbed me the wrong way”. There have been times when I judged someone simply because of who their friends are.  Worse yet, how about those people I avoid just because of their affiliations with certain political or religious groups? Not to mention the folks that I distance myself from simply because of age, race, ethnicity or income level. My justification – “I don’t hate them; I just don’t really like them.” or “I don’t have anything in common with these people.” or “I already have enough friends.” In truth: My love is conditional. And I own this. And it’s a shame.

So I’m   T  R  Y  I  N  G   to love unconditionally. But it’s not easy. Not for me anyway. Unconditional love – such an easy thing to say and such a hard thing to do. Loving without expecting to be loved in return. Kindness given without any expectation of kindness returned. I struggle with this every day. And yet, I have been loved unconditionally all my life. Strangers who welcomed me; teachers who guided me; friends and family who have loved me during some pretty un-lovable times.

I have a wife who loves me unconditionally. And I have friends and family who love me unconditionally, too. They’re not looking for anything from me (not that I can offer much anyway). My grandkids love me unconditionally. They just accept me as I am and they even seem to like me this way. Which makes me want to be a better person because of their love.

I think about 10 years ago when we lived in England. We were truly foreigners. We tentatively entered our little St. Peter Church in Cirencester for the first time not knowing what to expect. No proof of worthiness or commitment to financial support was required (or ever requested for that matter). Even with our funny American accents, we were loved by our priest “as we were” and embraced by our faith community “just because”.

So I’m going to keep trying to love unconditionally. Don’t be startled if I smile at you for no apparent reason. Don’t be surprised if I am kinder and gentler. Don’t be weirded-out if I give you a hug. Of course sometimes I’ll revert to being a jerk, and then if you still love me, I’ll know that your love is unconditional. And I will be blessed once more.

Peace & Happy Saint Valentine’s Day,

Denis

Remember When Valentine Was A Saint?

Growing up I celebrated Saint Valentine’s Day. Somewhere along the way it just became Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure why, maybe it was a concerted effort to eliminate all that is good and holy from our world or to brainwash us into buying Hallmark® cards. More than likely it’s just a harmless derivative of what once was a Catholic feast day honoring a saint whose very existence is in dispute. Generally it is believed that Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II for aiding and marrying Christian couples (hence the romantic connection). But several Valentines are mentioned in early Christian history and many legends surround the name.

St. Valentine

Whether Valentine was a legend or a saint doesn’t have much bearing on how we celebrate February 14th. Today Valentine’s Day is a day for lovers. Whether it’s a new romance or a time-tested marriage; whether it’s the celebration of love between parents and their children or best friends; it’s a good day to say “I love you”. And how can that be a bad thing?

For me, my wife Deb is my Valentine. She’s the one that stands by me through thick and thin. She is my leaning post, my rock, my partner, my inspiration and my joy. She is the one that gives meaning to my life – she is my lifetime Valentine. If some red roses and a romantic meal together will show her how much her love means to me – it’s a small price to pay.

We love one another everyday but I believe that Valentine’s Day is a good day to love a little more. Hug those that are close to you just a little bit tighter. Kiss your wife (or husband) with a little more passion. Send a note to someone that you’ve neglected. Call a friend just to say hello. Help carry a load. Mend a quarrel. Make peace. Love.

Some folks might bemoan the fact that the ‘Saint’ has been taken out of Valentine’s Day but I think that Valentine cards and heart-shaped boxes of candy are as harmless as bunnies on Easter. And maybe, just maybe, it’s better to honor those saints living among us than some saint from antiquity.

Peace (and Love)

Denis