If you want to live a profoundly meaningful life you must choose to exhibit two very powerful virtues. The first is love. Love is not a feeling, a romantic encounter, and it most assuredly is not sex even though one can love and enjoy a sexual relationship with another person. Above all other things love is a choice. That choice is one in which we elect to pour ourselves out for something or someone greater than ourselves. For that love to be transformative, powerful, and meaningful, it must be exercised properly and in the appropriate way. We must first love God above all other things. God is the source of all that is good, holy, and beautiful. God is truth and transcendent reality that gives our mundane existence a more holistic and expansive understanding of reality. It allows us to see beyond the material world into a more dynamic and meaningful reality. After learning to love God we must learn to love other people. We must find ways to see something redeemable in our fellow human being even when they seem to only elicit emotions of anger and frustration from us. Finally, we must love the world God blesses us with and care for the earth, other creatures, and the resources we have to make this world one that is nourishing and life affirming, not sickly and decaying. Love is a choice we must make and execute in a properly ordered way to live a more profound and meaningful life.
The second choice we must make to live a meaningful life is to be a forgiving person. Forgiveness, like love is a choice we make. It’s a way to counterbalance the failures found in attempts to love. It says to those who have hurt us we choose something bigger than the harm they caused us. It empowers us to release someone who hurt us from the justice we are owed. It is an altruistic act of releasing them from what they owe you. Forgiveness is a way we choose to be free of the trappings another individual’s poor choices, behaviors, and actions have created in our lives. These trappings are chains that bind us to negative emotional experiences such as hate, shame, and frustration. Like love, forgiveness is not a feeling we have nor is it a means of justifying what someone has done to us, it’s merely choosing a way to be free so we may love others and allow others to love us. Forgiveness keeps us from perpetuating the hurt we feel on other people. It re-enables us to give and receive love as we were intended to do.
If we can choose to love in a properly ordered way and choose to forgive when unjustly treated we become a conduit of the love and forgiveness God wants to offer others through us. Too often we refuse to love more abundantly because we fear by pouring out love on others we will use up all we have and never get the love of God back. We think we will use up all the love God has to give us because we project onto God the limited love we experience from other people. Likewise, we refuse to forgive others because in doing so we believe we are giving up something that is rightly ours and know that in giving that up we may not receive more of the forgiveness God has to offer us. We forget a very distinct characteristic of God and that is his overabundant grace. God’s love and his forgiveness are more than any human being can fathom. In fact the more we pour out love on others and the more we forgive others the more we are filled with the deep experience of God’s love and forgiveness. I have never learned the depth of love more perfectly than when I had children. When I was asked to love a small human being who could not love me back in any immediate way, I learned the power of pouring myself out for another so that another human soul could thrive and live. Discovering the ability to love another person that profoundly helped me understand the depth of God’s love for us. Forgiving others to the point I felt I could not forgive them anymore has helped me discover the depth of God’s forgiveness for me.
Let me close this short essay with these final thoughts. If you want to experience love and forgiveness in a more deep and profound way, choose to love and forgive others in ways that make you uncomfortable. You will find by exercising these two virtues that God has empowered you in ways you could never imagine. He empowers you to be a window into his divine life for others to peer into and find heaven in a most mysterious and life changing way.