“Baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more” – Haddaway, What Is Love
These are philosophical and practical words that blast through nightclub speakers of a staple 1993 and beyond dancefloor banger. Is it possible that love essentially boils down to not hurting those that you care about? Over the course of human existence love has been defined in many ways. Words like strong affection, attraction, copulation, tenderness, and holding one’s opponent scoreless in tennis (Merriam Webster Incorporated, 2017) all come to mind. I get lost in definitions. I overanalyze. The ancient Greeks had six definitions of love alone; eros, philia, ludus, agape, pragma, philautia (See original article here). People search for love. They look online, in bars, at barbecues. What you’re looking for is the connection. That spark that opens your eyes so wide that you can’t take anything else in. It disturbs your mind to fantasize about a conversation, a shared drink, sex. Let’s assume that you already have that. You know each other well enough that you share your fears, hopes about the future, your disdain for that co-worker who talks way too much about their kids, etc. Although you feel happy, affectionate, connected…you wonder is this love? You’re not the only one questioning. We live in a world where happily-ever-after omits bill paying, scrubbing the toilet, and picking up your wife’s workout clothes. When those initial fantasies wear off and your engagement happened at a ballpark instead of the Seine River, your mind may wander.
Love is non-harming, non-hurtful. If a person truly loves a person, place, or thing, they do everything in their power to keep it from hurting. Human instinct is to avoid pain. Who in their right mind wants to be scolded by hot coffee, verbally abused by their irate 16 year-old, or feel that they are unlovable/broken/a burden? When there is a genuine care, concern, and affection present there is an instinctive need to absolutely protect it from harm. If you love something enough to let it go, I bet that you sure as hell want to make sure it travels safely. I’m not saying that loving someone is uncomplicated. It upsets you when they eat all Cheez-Its, grinds your gears when they talk to their parents about things you did not discuss as a couple first, and may have hurt you in the past. Yet, they still own lot space in your heart. There are layers to this thing; it is the most confounding and liberating emotion. It makes you crazy enough to scream and cry and it makes you safe enough to fall asleep or have a child. The point is to voice your concerns without letting them dominate the emotional space of your relationship. There is a statistic that in the average home the ratio of negative to positive messages is 14:1; conversely, in long-term happy marriages the ratio of positive messages to negative messages is 7:1. Love is all ancient and contemporary definitions and a natural phenomenon that brings rains of joy, winds of fear, and the light of truth. It’s also something much more. Maybe it’s practically easy to start with it being non-harm, that goes for loving yourself too.
Application: You’re going to have the opportunity to hurt someone today or in the next few days. When you find that moment where you can really drive in the dagger, take a breath, and say to yourself “I know I can hurt [insert person] and I choose not to.” You may not succeed at first, but try and try again. Make note of your immediate reactionary feelings, then at a quiet time in the evening check-in with yourself again about your decision.