We all have our definitions of what love is and what it is not. We claim it is a feeling, the way we are drawn to someone in a special way, an emotion that envelopes us, taking control in a sense of the way we think, talk and act towards a certain person or group of persons, such as our family.
Sometimes it is blind, for it cannot see. It stumbles and fumbles, head on without fear or fervor. At the beginning that is. Until someone rips it’s heart off and it does a right u-turn. For others, love gives. Gives and gives of itself until it is exhausted and then it gives some more. And then one day, it gives up and says ‘That’s it. I am done with this love thing. From now on, it is going to be all about me”. Many a sign has been put up with the words “Heart closed until further notice”. Some of us have been caught up in a fairytale, with dreams and expectations of a knight in shinning amour who will sweep us off our feet. Which usually gets me wondering what happens next; do we remain hanging in the air where he swept us, hoping the law of gravity favors us or with time and a few arm aches after, he gently (or forcefully) puts all our weight down, probably breaking a heart, limb or leg in the process?
Love is indeed a beautiful thing. That feeling, that emotion, that causes us to let go and fall, whatever it is, is beautiful. Beautiful when seen, beautiful when experienced, beautiful when felt. But for how long, in the context of the Nigerian mind, does it last? If what we all have felt or are feeling or hope to feel at some point is what love is, how come it fails or withers when in fact true love shouldn’t? I know, I hear you saying it already..if it is true love it will, right? You know that actually gets me wondering if there’s anything like the opposite of that, which would be what? False love? Untrue love? Illegal love? Anyone out there ever experienced that, had it handed out to them or handed it out to someone?
Let us not get confused here. To not love is to hate. Woooah!! Now hate here is a very, very strong word, right? Wrong. It is a pretty simple and easy word, easy to feel and easy to pass around; easy to speak and easy to exhibit. If you have ever felt wronged by someone you loved and gave all to, you probably get my point here. Someone once said you’ve never really been in love until you have at one point or the other felt like killing them over a certain misconduct or the other of theirs. Kill? And did I hear you say hate was a strong word? How come we don’t feel like killing our mothers, brothers or sisters? Or maybe our children when they do us wrong or annoy us?
We all thrive with love, ain’t no shame in that! We are like flowers, we flourish, glow and grow when we get enough air, enough watering, enough love. Indeed we are built to love and to be loved, without some kind of love, we wither and die. All around us today, there are far too many of us consumed with ourselves than with others. That commandment, love your neighbour as yourself has been discarded in its totality or has just proved too hard to do. But it is not hard to do, we have just chosen the easy way out, hate.
We are imperfect ourselves yet we look for perfection in others. So consumed with trying to find faults that we fail to see how at fault we are ourselves for even daring to do that. We love our children totally, yet find it so difficult to love our spouses (husbands or wives) unconditionally. Do we need to be reminded that they once were babies, someone’s baby, someone’s prince/princess, just like our own children? They were once cradled, loved, kissed every minute of everyday by someone who will move mountains just to make sure they get all they need? They once were and still are someone’s baby. The apple of someone’s eye!
I remember looking through a wedding album online and the bride, in reference to her newly wedded husband, said this: “Jermaine is the kind of man my father is to my mother, and that is what I love most about him“, which got me thinking how amazing a husband her father must have been to make her want to replicate him in her husband! We need to quit our ‘me first’ attitudes. It is what the world we live in encourages but it is one of the reasons for our failures first as individuals, as families and then as a nation and lean more towards extending our love towards our fellow humans in any little way we can.
We can start from home and begin to show more love towards our children, our partners, that irate mother-in-law, that nasty colleague at work, for love, indeed covers all things. It does not matter what they did; our spouse could have said the nastiest thing ever or look like a frumpy cat after pushing out your children (all three of them who took after you with their humongous heads), love them anyway. Your wife might have said the most annoying thing to you, no she doesn’t deserve a slap or a good old beating, remember then your promise/vow to love and to hold and do something from a place of love instead. Your husband might have returned home reeking of alcohol and shot a bullet with the words coming out of his mouth, love him instead. Take care of him, love him, respect him, unconditionally, just like you would love your own child, because he is someone’s child. After all they are not disposable.
Stop looking for loopholes in love when in fact there shouldn’t be none. You either love or you hate and we are all capable of one or the other, it’s just the choice we make that makes the difference. Stop looking for excuses or reasons to withdraw your love and instead start looking for more reasons to love regardless. The story of the good Samaritan shows us there are only loopholes when we create them for the Samaritan could have listed concrete reasons for not helping the Jew, after all they are sworn enemies from times past! But his actions closed the gap, shut the loophole and mended the bridge.
We have totally forgotten the power that lies in that four letter word; only love both ways can heal our marriages and reduce divorce rates thereby reducing children who are products of a broken home, only it can reduce crime rates; for how do you rob let alone kill some one if you have love in your heart? Only love can stop wars, extend an arm of love to even the most hardened of criminals and watch them melt! Only love, when given in good measure can end the pain.
But only if we try.
Kemi Ajaja is a lawyer in training with a deep passion for helping build marriages and working with young people and inspiring them to live their best lives. She writes at