Valentine’s and love

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”  MLK

Valentine’s Day  is just around the corner. But how exactly did this custom or celebration start?  There are several explanations, all of which date back to thousands of years ago.

One tells the story of a priest named Valentine who was incarcerated for aiding persecuted Christians. He was executed on February 14 circa 270 AD  because he defied the Roman emperors’ ruling at the time which banned all marriages and engagements in efforts to garner more soilders in the army.

Others believe Valentine’s Day is a relic of an ancient Roman celebration known as Lupercalia. The purpose of this custom was to avert evil spirits and “purify the city” by releasing “health and fertility.” This  involved acts like sacrificing animals and engaging in wild orgies. And what about that little baby angel known as Cupid? He is the Roman god of love, identified with the Greek god Eros, which represented passion and physical desire.  It was believed that when he struck his arrow into an unsuspecting victim, he would fall in love with the first thing he saw.

In mental health, love is well known to have a healthy effect in the mind by reducing anxiety and even lowering the chances of developing depression or other forms of mental illness. But did you know that a day that’s supposed to bring about joy actually has an adverse effect on some, particularly teenagers? A study published in the British Medical Journal discovered “ an association between St. Valentine’s Day and parasuicide particularly in adolescent patients.” (S.M. Davenport & J. Birtle, 1990)

So, how can a day that’s supposed to bring about joy and love, evoke feelings of stress and sadness in some?

One possible explanation is that since childhood and throughout adolescence we are programmed, primarily by the media, to believe that the most important type of love is  linked to being in a romantic relationship (or eros). So what about those who don’t have a partner? Or those older individuals who may have lost their spouse and are now left to fend for themselves? Where do they discover that feeling of love, safety and acceptance?

The commercialization of love has certainly not contributed to defining what true love is. After all, is spending money essential to expressing love? Regardless of this, many people feel morally obligated in some way to do so. While still others make efforts to curry favor with their spouse, friend or lover desperately spending money on flowers, balloons, chocolate and wine on this very day.

That being said, I conclude this brief writing with wise words written by Erich Fromm is his  book “The Art of Loving.”

“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.”

Yes, true love is not simply a fleeting emotion; it requires the use of ones mind. So, however you chose to spend this upcoming holiday, I encourage you to take a moment and think about what giving and receiving love truly means.

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