During this week of Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but think about love. Even if we don’t celebrate the holiday, it’s worth thinking about what love is—how it makes us feel and how it makes the world better. We are all looking for it; it’s the river that runs through us. Without some kind of love, we feel empty inside. The meaning and value in life expands when we are loved and love others.
There are many ways to see love in action. As we get older, we may enjoy watching young love birds go about their dance and flirtations. We see a mother and father love their little ones, giving us hope for humanity.
We can honor the couple celebrating 60 years of marriage, a testament that love can withstand the hardships and storms that arise in all relationships. A long-term relationship is a living example that love grows in beauty, strength and power. It isn’t defined or confined by aging.
And there are the movies, books, songs and images that remind us of our own experiences of love. While this creative work helps us better understand an aspect of love, what matters most is that we are actively being loved and loving others.
Sometimes love comes to us in ways even without the word itself being overtly mentioned. In those cases, love is still the reason something good is unfolding in our lives.
At the 2020 Academy Awards, Joaquin Phoenix won his first Oscar as Best Actor for his role in Joker. The actor has had personal and professional ups and downs. In his acceptance speech he noted that although he has been a difficult person, the actions of others have helped make him better.
"I've been a scoundrel in my life,” he said. “I've been selfish. I've been cruel at times, hard to work with and ungrateful, but so many of you in this room have given me a second chance." He didn’t mention the word “love” in that part of his speech. But I feel that grace, redemption and love were behind the film community's giving him that second chance.
We all are in need of second chances in our lives. I recalled one summer during college working as a salesperson at a fabric store. I was unhappy with the work environment. It showed in my attitude. One afternoon the owner pulled me aside and gave a stern but fair warning. He had compassion and didn’t fire me. He gave me the chance to make the emotional adjustments, and I learned a lot from the experience, especially that love comes to us in many different ways.
In relationships, in work, in the books we read, the music we hear or the actions we take—no matter how love shows up in our lives, there's a common denominator. It is always transforming.