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Keeping love real

Last week, I was doing some research on the word “love,” specifically as it pertains to a very well-known passage from the New Testament in the Bible. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he talks about love. Many of you may have heard this passage recited at significant events when we are searching for the words to express deep, abiding love. At weddings, I think most of us assume it’s about romance. You know, falling in love. And the reading is a little bit of a caution to say, “Wait a minute, there’s more to it.”

Paul says that love is patient, love is kind. It’s not jealous or rude, doesn’t rejoice in wrong-doing. Indeed, love rejoices in truth. But, here’s the thing. In earlier versions of the Bible, this letter from Paul to the Corinthians used the word “charity” in place of the word “love,” and I think that’s worth thinking about. Because words matter. (So does thinking.)

We hear and use the word love a lot. I love my children . . . but I also love spinach. It’s all about me and what I love. The more we use it for so many things, the more it is about ourself. I love your eye-shadow. I love Ted Lasso. I love my grandchildren. And then you have to ask, “Is it really all the same?” (My husband forbade the use of the word “hate” in our house and in his presence, for similar reasons.)

I mean, I get why we use the word “love” in the reading (as we have for hundreds of years now), but “charity”? Even the meaning of that word has changed over centuries. I think of charity as, at best, serious philanthropy or volunteerism, but, at worst, giving the guy at the stop light at the turnpike exit a couple bucks. But in my research, I learned that the root of charity means loving-kindness and hospitality. It looks outward rather than insisting on its own way.

Charity also meant love of God and fellow man, a generosity of spirit toward the poor or down on their luck at the moment. Charity in the old sense is affection and simple kindness, fondness. Charity places value on others. So, “love” in the sense of that older, fuller word “charity” is a deeply lived act that permeates everything you do. It is a way of living. It is how you are with yourself and with others. It is compassion. It is metta.

So, whether you think of it as charity or love, it is one and the same; love is an act, over and over and over again. And it’s real.

PS: Thank you to Dakota and Mile for the inspiration for this week’s post. I love you both, dearly.


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