Sunday, September 07, 2003

On Love

Love must be one of the most thoroughly explored topics there is. One of the most mysterious things about it is that it can remain mysterious after so much has been said about it. Love has been the subject of countless books, songs, plays and films and yet, if you ask ten different people what love is you’ll likely get ten different answers. At least. One could describe it as a feeling of great joy while another would think of it as a deep sense of contentment and security. A third might talk in terms of completeness and a fourth about tenderness and care. Somebody else could well feel all of those things at different times, or none of them.

So are they all feeling the same thing? Can love be different things to different people or do we need as many words for love as the Inuits have for snow. If you’re looking for answers to those questions you ought to look elsewhere because I don’t have any better idea than anyone else.

Instead, what I want to write about is a side of love that you don’t see discussed very often, the duty of care that the person on the receiving end of love has.

Love is a very strong emotion, one that can withstand all sorts of pressures and still flourish but, because of this strength, it often means that the one who is in love develops a fragility, a weakness that is hidden by their love. If their feelings are betrayed, the sudden loss of the protection that love gave them can expose the frailty and do all sorts of psychological damage.

If somebody loves you, they give you the power to inflict serious harm on them and they trust that you will not do so. It is this responsibility toward their emotional state that I call the ‘duty of care’. It makes no difference whether you return the feelings in kind, you still have the power to hurt someone and therefore the responsibility not to.

So, next time somebody tells you they love you, give a thought to your duty to them and ask yourself whether their love is safe in your hands.

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