One of the most influential historical figures in my life is Socrates, who used to roam streets of Athens nearly 2,500 years ago asking seemingly trivial questions: What is virtue and can it be taught? What is justice? He approached each discussion from an egoless place by admitting that he knows nothing and frequently made others realize that they were either deeply conflicted about their own beliefs or that their actions directly contradicted their self-proclaimed values; thus giving birth to what is known as Socratic method.
While I cannot claim that I came up with the following definition of love through the Socratic method, it was the Socratic way of thinking that made me appreciate it. The definition of love that I’m talking about here comes from Bishop Robert Barron which states that love is willing the good of the other.
For most of my life I thought that love is a validation mechanism; essentially a sign that I am doing something right or more specifically, I punched all the right boxes on my life’s check list. Subconsciously, it became a selfish manipulation mechanism to get the recognition I craved.
That’s why Bishop Barron’s definition was so eye opening to me in that it helped me view others not as transactional objects, but as teachers who give me daily opportunities to show up as a better person.
One of the many areas of my life that was impacted by this new way of thinking is prayer. Before I used to pray more for myself and just a bit for others. Recently, however, I switched that around. Weather it was someone unfortunate from the news, a handicapped person I encountered or someone unemployed looking for a job, they all became vivid characters in my prayer life.
The irony here is that when I used to pray solely for myself, all of my intentions could basically be boiled down to the desire for joy. By praying for others, I found that very joy that seemed so elusive earlier.
I don’t have a delusion of grandeur and I am not claiming here that I have supernatural powers to perform miracles. I don’t. But by focusing on other’s good, I grew empathy and became more connected to everyone around me. For instance, every day I seem to find opportunities to perform random acts of kindness to which I was blind to not that long ago. In turn, this sense of oneness helped me flourish from an individual tunnel vison to a much more comprehensive vantage point.
So think about what love means to you and then ask yourself whether you are actively working on becoming a living example of that definition.