In real love you want the other person’s good. In romantic love you want the other person.
What does that mean?
To me, this quote is a classic description of selfless love compared to selfish love. Or to put it another way, it is about the difference between love and lust.
In real love, the quote says, your focus is on the good of the other person. Their happiness and their well being are your primary concerns. Your focus is outward, towards them, not inward towards yourself.
In romantic or selfish love, the quote says, your focus is on the other person. Not for their good, but for yours. Your pleasure, your needs, your desires, they come first. Any thought for them is based on what you can get from them.
Unfortunately, in English, both types of love are covered with the same word. You have to use extra words to qualify exactly what you mean. A simple statement like “I love you.” becomes ambiguous, and means whatever the person hearing the words thinks it means, regardless of the intentions of the speaker.
Why is real or selfless love important?
That is most easily seen from the outside looking in. If someone said they were in love with you (in an amorous or even if only in a familial manner), would you rather that love be selfless from them, or selfish? That is, are they doing it for you, or for themselves?
We must maintain a sense of self, and do things to keep ourselves strong, healthy, and fit. However, that doesn’t mean everything has to be about us. Most of us do spend some time thinking about others, and how we can help them, not for our good, but for theirs.
The question is where is most of our time spent? Do we spend most of our time focused on ourselves, or on the good of others? Please note that this question is supposed to be answered differently at different times in your life.
When you are young, life is far more about yourself and what you want. Then comes relationships, and the good of others creeps in. Then come kids, and grand kids, and it changes again. There is no right answer, just be sure you know and understand yourself.
Where can I apply this in my life?
That depends on where you are in your life, and how much you care about others. Again, it’s not a value judgement on my part, but a matter of knowing yourself. The question is if you want to work on thinking of others and their needs or not.
I will go on the presumption that you want to become a little better at thinking of others, and being proactive in helping them, or you would probably have wandered off to another webpage by now. With that in mind as our starting point, let’s begin.
Why do we tend to focus on ourselves? Why are our needs so important to us? Some if it has to do with gaining pleasure or avoiding pain. But once our basic human needs are satisfied, should our focus begin to shift? At what point does our focus change?
When should we start to look at others and how hungry they are? Certainly after we have sated our hunger, but when do we actually do something about it? It is one thing to observe or note that there are hungry people, and that we aren’t hungry.
That style of analysis can be applied to anyone with a surplus and the people with a corresponding lack, or need. What about the people closest to you? Your family, your friends, and the people in your neighborhood or community? How do you love them, selfishly or selflessly?
Again, everyone will be different, and each of the people with whom you have a relationship will be different as well. There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer. You will have to examine each of the relationships and make that determination for yourself.
Just take a little time and think about it. Where on the scale of selfish to selfless are you in some of your closest relationships? What do you get out of the relationship, and what do they get out of it? Are you in a symbiotic relationship, or are you a little closer to a parasite? (eww!)
Now consider the groups or organizations to which you belong. Yes, many groups exist to help the members. But when there is a call for officers to stand for election, or a request for volunteers to help with a fundraiser or for an event, are you selfless or selfish? Again, I am not trying to pass judgement, I just have a desire for you to be aware of yourself and your motivation.