As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, one of my favourite Jane Austen quotes comes from her Northanger Abbey. “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
I guess the reason I find it meaningful is perhaps because it’s reflective of my kind of loving. When I like someone, they will have no doubt about it. However, I’m also aware that I can be overbearing at times in showing affection. I want the other person to see how special they are in general and to me in particular. I think I even begin to imagine that they ‘need’ me to point them in the right direction.
But not loving by halves doesn’t mean trying to be all things to them. It shouldn’t mean that I try to show that my affection to the point of irritating them.
Sometimes people don’t want our love or caring. And that should be okay with us, or it wouldn’t be love at all.
Loving someone wholeheartedly should mean that I give them the freedom to be who they want to be. The freedom to make their own mistakes, even if it hurts to watch them doing so. It means that I realize that the Universe is big enough and generous enough to take care of those I love, without me lifting a finger to do anything for them.
I love the Buddha’s concept of equanimity in loving as explained by Thich Nhat Hanh in his Teachings on Love.
As long as we see ourselves as the one who loves and the other as the one who is loved, as long as we value ourselves more than others or see ourselves as different from others, we do not have true equanimity. We have to put ourselves “into the other person’s skin” and become one with him if we want to understand and truly love him. When that happens, there is no “self’ and no “other.”
Without upeksha, your love may become possessive. A summer breeze can be very refreshing; but if we try to put it in a tin can so we can have it entirely for ourselves, the breeze will die. Our beloved is the same. He is like a cloud, a breeze, a flower. If you imprison him in a tin can, he will die. Yet many people do just that. They rob their loved one of his liberty, until he can no longer be himself. They live to satisfy themselves and use their loved one to help them fulfill that. That is not loving; it is destroying.
I’m working on my concept of loving and yet not attempting to control the other.
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