pop culture, vocation

What is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me. Don’t Hurt Me. No More.

So, Valentine’s Day is upon us. As a single woman, apparently I’m supposed to be depressed and “celebrate” SAD (Singles Awareness Day). Or, I can “celebrate” Desperation Day (aka February 13th) a la How I Met Your Mother and throw myself at some rando right before Valentine’s Day.

Um, no. That sounds horrible. I’m going to actually celebrate Valentine’s Day. How do you do that as a horribly lonely single person with no significant other to buy you roses and chocolates and teddy bears and presents? With love. True, authentic, self-sacrificing love.

Let’s review the holiday. St. Valentine was a real person. He was brutally killed in the early centuries of the Common Era (or A.D. Whatever you want to go with.) for marrying Christian couples. Offense #1 was that he was Christian. Offense #2 was that he a priest who had the nerve to marry people. He was beaten horribly and then beheaded after beating him relentlessly didn’t kill him on February 14th.

And somehow that correlates to chocolates and roses and buying people jewelry?

For centuries, February 14th, the anniversary of Valentine’s death, has been a reminder of love. And somehow, a man willing to die for marriage, a sacrament were we dedicate our lives to loving someone else more than ourselves has turned into a warped sort of holiday where we expect someone to make us feel loved.

Huh?

I guess the discrepancy all ties back to what we think love is. Cuture tells me love is chick flicks like Love Actually but deep down, I know love has to be more than a feeling. How else do you explain caring for a significant other in a hospital or when they’re sick or when they’re irrationally angry or look like crap?

So, what is love? I think of the Haddaway song that goes, “What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me/don’t hurt me, no more.” Is love about avoiding pain? Is love about chocolate and gifts and flowers?

I hope not. I think of my dear sister who loathes this holiday. She and her now husband broke up their first year of dating because of this warped, unrealistic, romantical Valentine’s Day.  In their (brief) time apart, they realized they truly loved each other. As in, they would see past their hurt, their fear, their pride, and their whatever to actually love the other person.

Thank goodness they did, because that love has produced a marriage and the most adorable nephew on the planet (but I’m not partial at all.)

Love is a gift, yes. But it’s not flowers, chocolates, teddy bears, or what have you. It’s a complete gift of self. Flowers die. Chocolates are empty calories. Teddy bears get donated eventually (I’m assuming). Material gifts fade, but gift of self does not.

St. Valentine gave himself and his life for love, and look! We’re still celebrating him centuries upon centuries later. If he would have given the people who wanted to kill him flowers or chocolates, did what they wanted, and hid his true self from them, do you think we would celebrate that? I don’t.

True complete gift of self does not fade. It may not seem significant or powerful or like anything important, but true love is the most powerful, thoughtful gift in the world.

So, I’m celebrating St. Valentine’s Day as it was meant to be celebrated: with the gift of myself. I’m going to be the best version of myself to my friends, family, co-workers, strangers, etc. I’m sending cards, and though they’ll probably eventually be thrown out, I want my friends to known that I truly appreciate that they continuously give me the gift of themselves.

True, authentic, loving friendship means a whole lot more to me than flowers, chocolates, and teddy bears anyway.

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