Most of us would say that love is the greatest of all human emotions, whether it might be romantic love, love of family, or love of country. In thinking about this it seems unfortunate that the expression of such love is almost always conditional. A man discovers that his wife once had an affair, and his love is no longer the same. A grown woman loves her aging father deeply. He was her role model, always there for her, like a rock. She finds out he had been a thief years before and her feelings for him are now changed irregardless of his unchanging love for her. A babushka, an old Russian woman, finds out the truth of her country’s invasion of Ukraine and her feelings for the motherland are irrevocably hurt. But no such major events are needed for someone to lose their love, as it is often simply something so small as a series of slights, whether real or imagined, that causes someone to stop loving another. And sometimes it seems love is conditional only because one has moved on, what was important and an object of love is simply no longer relevant as the years pass.

What would be the possibility for us to learn to love with more steadfastness? Perhaps a direction might be the arousing of another emotion which could support love. Such an emotion would be a special kind of compassion, not as we ordinarily think of compassion, but a compassion based on the original meaning of the word. The word compassion comes from two Latin words, the first is com, meaning with or together, and the second is pati, meaning to suffer, hence to suffer together. If one could come to suffer the inability and incapacity of the beloved, just as they suffer these same things within themselves, then one’s love might become less conditional, more objective. For it no longer would revolve around only oneself, but would be informed by the feelings and failings of the beloved.

Over time one’s love might then become a love that includes a knowledge of the beloved from the perspective of their own life in all of its aspects. It is a movement towards another kind of love which would include real acceptance, an acceptance given prior to any difficulties or discoveries that might later arise. One even might come to experience a very small understanding of divine love, that love which is completely infused with acceptance. Within such a love we might also sense a hint of something else, a hint of an unimaginably higher level of suffering. For such suffering is also an attribute of the divine. It is the very foundation for a love on a scale far beyond ours, a love that is nevertheless the origin and source of the love we call our own.

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