“Now I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through and in love” – Viktor Frankl
When all other hope was lost, love would ironically become the vessel strong enough to carry some through the struggle of Auschwitz. A love once experienced, and still felt, was, for many, more powerful than the most unimaginable horrors they were condemned to repeatedly suffer.
The focus of the second part in this series will be the opportunity that we all have to find meaning through love. If you missed the first, it can be found here.
We are intensely social creatures. As we evolved, our survival depended on the ability to form and maintain a secure social network – alone, we were dead; together, we had a chance. Although this dependency is less obvious in our modern world, the same rule still applies: the need for belonging, for love, is paramount.
Fortunately, we’re perpetually offered the opportunity to cultivate our relationships no matter the state they currently hold. If broken, we can repair them; if distant, we can rekindle them; if lifeless, we can revive them; if strong, we can deepen them.
How? That’s tough to say as the exact ingredients are as varied as the individuals themselves; however, we can plainly see the spirit of connection is the same across the board.
A fundamental aspect of love is support, and given the complexity and constant challenges and occasional cruelties of life, we all require this from time to time. The attitude to adopt, should we wish to deepen our relationships and therefore find meaning through them, is that we will willingly sacrifice our time and effort to a loved one in need.
It’s not about what we can take from a relationship, but rather what we can give. Often, it’s as simple as listening and providing a safe space for the other to vent. At other times, action will be required. Asking ‘please let me know if there is anything I can do’ is one thing, and certainly has value, yet actually doing that something, unasked, is infinitely more powerful. “The immediate influence of behavior,” said Frankl “is always more effective than that of words”.
It doesn’t even really matter what you do, yet by doing something to express that you care for someone, you show them that they matter to you, that they are not alone.
A second fundamental component to love is nonjudgement. It is up to us to create, as best we can, an atmosphere of openness, where both we and our loved one can be utterly free to express ourselves in our truest form. Even if we don’t fully understand or appreciate the struggles of our loved ones, it is up to us to remain open-minded and to provide a space of nonjudgement.
It’s common for people to feel as though they must govern their emotions and censor their words to ensure, at least as much as they can, that they will not be met with hostility. Constant criticism and judgement cripple’s openness and is never beneficial. Therefore, as we strive to deepen our relationships, let’s do our utmost to question ourselves and our words when we feel compelled to criticize.
This isn’t to say that all behaviors should be accepted unconditionally – some things such as perpetual laziness and unreliability will never be acceptable – instead, I’m referring to avoiding criticism when the other is expressing themselves and how they feel. It’s okay to disagree or provide your perspective – in fact, at times this is necessary – however be mindful to ensure there’s no venom attached to your words.
“Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved to actualize their potentialities” – Viktor Frankl
The core subject of this series is the search for meaning, and in our relationships, we have a wonderful opportunity to assist those we care about, as much as we can, in their own pursuits. Oftentimes this means providing our loved ones with energy and encouragement. By showing confidence in someone, they will become more convicted, and that may have a major impact on their outcomes. As Frankl put it: “encouragement is now more necessary than ever”. Actively choose to hold people up – encourage them, excite them.
Above all, kindness is king. Aspire to become a reliable source of warmth and caring and kindness to those you hold dear. Adherence to this one simple principle has the power to transform our relationships into an incredible source of joy.
I can’t think of any other pursuit as meaningful as this.
In words of Frankl “love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire”.