Love and freedom

“You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

In the latest Disney blockbuster ‘Beauty and the Beast’, we glean unique insights into what it really means to love. About what love is, and what it isn’t.

Without making this a spoiler, it suffices to say that just like us in real life, key characters in the movie (not just the obvious Beast) struggled to understand what it meant to love.

For the Beast, it was only when he reached the epiphany that he had to release Belle from his prisonership, that he finally arrived at where he needed to be. His selfless choice, coming at the risk of his own eternal damnation. In truth, we are very much like the Beast.

 Innate human desire always seeks to possess. The greater we perceive the value of something to be, the more we want it and the more we fear losing it. This can range from the people and things we desire, to less obvious attributes such as our ego and pride, that we are afraid to let go of.

The very act of love always gives freedom.

Yet, the stronger our will to be in control and to possess, the more unfree we actually become, and the lesser our capacity in which to really act out of love, trapping us as prisoners of our own choices made out of fear.

Because the very essence of love is to set free, and gives life. Love always offers the beloved the freedom to choose without influence. And yes, that includes the risk of an undesired outcome. Because true love can never be without risk.

As Thomas Merton once said, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” Shades of Gaston, anyone?

Emotional manipulation and playing mind games to seek control
happen when we allow unhealed wounds from our past to intensify our desire to possess absent love.

But love can never be possessed. For ultimately the very meaning of love is to surrender all control, willing only the greatest good upon the beloved, even with the risk of losing all. Sounds foolish and humanly impossible? Perhaps.

That is why I firmly believe that for us to truly arrive at the fullest understanding of the most profound word in all of human history, and to personify it, we must draw from a source of love that is greater than ourselves. For only love that is not derived from self can be selfless love.

“One day a man asked God, ‘what’s the difference between our love and your love?’ God smiled and said, ‘a bird in the sky is my love, and a bird in a cage is your love.'”

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