Live your best life …
Recently, I was re reading, St. George and the Dragon and the Quest for the Holy Grail by Edward Hays. The book deals with a journey of self discovery; a journey taken within to rediscover the spirit. Hays highlights this journey with stories (parables). Hays’ characters, George (the seeker) and the Dragon (the spiritual guide) contemplate life questions in the name of Truth. Hays bases his parables on a variety of holy books and if you overlook the frequent references to evil, the stories are thought provoking. Whilst the language Hays uses throughout his book is somewhat religious; his observations make for sobering reading.
Most people would admit that love (in some form) is necessary for a happy, contented life. The source of this love is immaterial (family, friends, hobbies, employment etc.) but necessary. Therefore, it is sad to see so many people struggling to feel the effects of love or accepting something which masquerades as love. One of Hays’ stories addresses the disguises which ‘ love ’employs. The use of the word ‘disguise’ suggests that Hays is addressing this negative aspect. You might also notice that the forms of love enumerated below are based on fear; fear of difference, fear of not being good enough which shows up as superiority, conceit and a need to possess.
The first disguise of love is Love of Country. Dressed in the colours of the flag (red white and blue, for example) Love is able to demand allegiance. It makes it possible to justify engaging in war, spying, brutality and destruction. Using this disguise, Love of Country is able to divide people into ‘us’ and ‘them’. It makes it possible to be blinded to the truth and allow for the demonization of other nationalities or minority groups. It makes revenge seem like a justifiable course of action.
The second disguise of Love is the Love of One’s own Religion. Wearing this disguise and steeped in tradition and respectability, Love encourages pride and the spirit of superiority; each institution claiming the mantle of ‘the one and only’. This Love gives permission to marginalise those whose beliefs differ; to kill, in so called ‘holy wars’ or to ridicule and spread lies about others. The power of this disguise lies in the fact that it is able to demand obedience and unquestioning assent to its teachings rather than the freedom to question and explore.
The next disguise of Love comes under the heading of Love of one’s Own Name or Self Respect. In this disguise, Love sanctions involvement in ‘acts of honour’ that involve anger, hate, frustration, domination and even murder.
The fourth disguise of Love is Parental Love. As parental love, the way is clear for control and manipulation via guilt. Using guilt, some parents are able to manipulate and make decisions for their children making them servants, clones and vicarious agents for their own needs.
The fifth disguise of Love is Love for One Another. Wearing this mask, love is able to dominate, control and exploit another. Under this guise, some people see no problem stealing affection, time and pleasure while never really sharing themselves. They see nothing wrong with ‘owning’ another and keeping that person in line by giving or refusing affection. Pain can be inflicted by words, suspicions, by refusing to forgive or by the use of silence. What about the people who were injured by this disguised love? Here, Hays lays some of the responsibility at the feet of those being abused. He says,” They were silent when they should have spoken; they allowed exploitation and did nothing. They reacted out of guilt and did not rebel.”
Hays contrasts real love with disguised love in the following way. ” Real Love gives unconditionally while counterfeit love takes. Authentic Love gives freedom while imitation love attempts to enslave and own another. Genuine love is expansive and reaches out to others; love as a forgery is a closed circle which applies restrictions to maintain exclusivity.”
The description of ‘real love’; unconditional, freedom giving and expansive, could also be applied to love of country, love of one’s own religion, love of own name, parental love and love of one another. Heroic, self sacrificing acts are done in the name of one’s country; works of charity are inspired by religious beliefs; a healthy self respect is a good thing and love for one another is the glue that holds families, couples and society together.
Now, let’s get back to George.
Having listened to the Dragon’s story, George was able to see how he had used love as a weapon in his life, as a tool to get what he wanted. He was inspired to challenge himself to love in a more expansive, selfless way. Like George, may I encourage you to examine your actions and run the ruler of “authentic love’ over them. I know there is room for improvement in my life.
Be kind to yourself.