When we think of Valentine’s Day, visions of glittered cards and red roses often come to mind. For those without a significant other, this can be an unwelcome image. Though few can debate the delight found in heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, there is far more to love than presents wrapped in red cellophane. True love transcends the bounds of romance and it doesn’t require that we be in a relationship to experience it. This Valentine’s Day, we have the opportunity to do more than pine for a perfect token of adoration. Here are seven ways we can experience the love by sharing it with others:
- Love anonymously
Give freely without expectation of return. Even if our spirit is generous, we may unknowingly begin to anticipate recognition for our compassion. When we give of ourselves anonymously by offering our resources for something no one will ever credit to us, we cultivate a sense of gratitude. Simple anonymity frees us from the need for validation and allows the glory of our offering to truly resonate.
- Love your family
Connect with family members, even those you haven’t spoken to in a while. Sometimes the best way that we can show our love is through an unexpected contribution of our time. Even if the offering is minor—let’s say a quick call during a lunch break—the feeling the offering elicits can be monumental. Though the effect may not be formally recognized, simply reaching out can be the centering boost a family member needs.
- Love your friends
Take the time to encourage your friends by specifically recognizing their unique talents. Often, we are unaware of our own spiritual and emotional gifts. When we take the time to honor others by letting them know precisely how we see them, the unexpected can occur. Perhaps you have a friend who is has a flair for writing, or one who has incredible strength and courage. By purposefully acknowledging these qualities, may spur them to hone their talents, or help them own the qualities that make them remarkable.
- Love your enemies
Forgiveness is a virtue, and extending it is often difficult, particularly with those we consider enemies. Unfortunately, when we smart from an injustice, we continually surrender ourselves to resentment and fear. By owning our own mistakes and making the necessary amends, we can begin to move into a state of forgiveness that will ultimately feed our soul. Forgiveness begins with an ownership of our own grudges and ends when we bestow mercy to others.
- Love your community
Serve as a volunteer and engage in acts of selflessness. Such acts can take place within the community of a 12 Step fellowship, and still others may occur in your neighborhood or city. Look for the needs in your own environment and seek to meet those needs with enthusiasm. By filling the spaces where help is needed, we can impact those we may never even come into contact with.
- Love the Earth
Practice awareness of your surroundings, and stop to pick up litter that others may have left behind. This may mean gathering cigarette butts outside of a meeting place, or taking the time to collect discarded receipts in a grocery store parking lot. By making a conscious effort to leave things better than we left them, we can make an ongoing impact on the world around us.
- Love yourself
Spend some time reflecting on how you have been helpful to those around you. Ultimately, walking a path of service will reveal our innate capacity to treat others with kindness and respect. Through this lens, we are given the ability to comprehend our own worth as spiritual beings having a human experience. If we want to gain self-esteem, we must do esteem able acts. Therefore, the best way to love ourselves is to pour out our hearts in selfless service so that we can fathom the freedom of humility and the power of grace.