All You Need is Love

 by Rabbi Laibl Wolf

I like Beatles’ music.  It is original, fresh, and quirkily meaningful. But on 25th June 1967 John Lennon got it decidedly wrong. Not the music – just the title. Nothing wrong with the love part, but expressing love as a need has got it all wrong.  You don’t ‘need’ love – you love. Love is many splendored thing and gives you that lovin’ feeling’. But love is also inner-work of taming the ego.

Democracy is a great political system but doesn’t always translate to other life areas e.g. love. And yet many people view love as a sacred democratic institution.  Emotion-democrats claim it’s all about fairness, equality, reciprocity, a two-way street.  It’s not.  Love is a one-way street. Think about it. Love is about giving. Love is what you draw from yourself to confer on another - a block of your busy time, a wad of hard earned-money, a flow of feelings at the tired end of the day. It’s always a gratuitous expression of sensitive caring.

So why can’t it be a two way street?  Wouldn’t that make it doubly good? Not at all. You can’t make someone love you. Love cannot be coercive and coerced. To get someone to love you back is to demand fulfillment of a need – your need – the need to be loved. But that is the ego talking. I need to be loved. And you, dear lady or gentleman, better love me, right now, on cue, at my bidding, otherwise ‘it’s not love’. Does that sound at all like love to you? Yet it does sound ‘needy’.

To be loved evokes a warm fuzzy feeling, a ‘feel-good’ feeling. Nothing unnatural or improper about feeling good when being loved. But that is the expression of love of the other for you. It is their verb, their choice, their giving – not yours. Love is not an equation. Love is an one-sided initiative.

The Kabbala explains love-dynamics in this way. The spiritual source of love is the Sefira of Hessed.  The nature of Hessed is to flow outwards from the mind, body, and soul. And it doesn’t flow inwards at the same time, so love is not what you receive, only what you give.

When the troubled lover says to his doubting partner: I will love you if you will love me, he is transacting business and specifying the conditional nature of the contract  - the big ‘if’. It might be a plaintive call for fairness but it’s the ego talking, saying ‘I want’, ‘I must have’, ‘I need that emotional fix’.  True love means to love, not to be a recipient of love.  If you love truly it is highly likely that you will awaken a true love in the other and you will, in passing, also be on the receiving end of their love with all of its attendant good feelings. But you don’t love to get it back.  That’s emotional bribery. When you get it back it’s called a bonus!

Love is not a need because a need is what is seeking fulfillment of what is missing in you. Love is what you give the other to fill up their emotional black hole, not yours.

Clearly love is a tricky matter. Introspection, honesty and clear-headedness are required to assess emotional integrity.  The important thing is not to engage in a ‘user-friendly’ relationship – very friendly but using the other for your own needs.

John, wherever you are, I am hereby retitling your song All You Give Is Love. Hope you don’t mind. It’s a better life recipe for joy and happiness.

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