Seven steps of love

- work in progress -

              A while ago I asked myself this question: What means love? People use this word very easily these days. But what exactly does it mean? My question was not meant to be a philosophical one. I was not looking for a definition or a description of love. I was trying to find what are those concrete, real things or steps you follow when you are saying you love somebody. Steps without which you basically cannot say you have love for that person. On one hand I tried not to be philosophical and vague. On the other hand I needed to be simple and general enough to cover any situation, if possible. So, I ended up with this seven steps of love. I know. Some of you will make fun of number seven. It’s ok. Initially they were only five. I don’t know if there will be more steps. I’m trying to keep it simple and all-encompassing.

  • Step one. You don’t hurt the person you love.

In this particular step (that I see as the most basic one) I’m not necessarily talking about all those moments when you (out of ignorance) may not know you are doing a particular gesture, or use a particular word that may be hurt somebody. I’m talking about the very simple situation when you know that something is offensive and hurting, and deliberately choose to do it. But it may very well be some hurt that results from the fact that you are not doing something that you are able to do. So it goes both ways. At the end of the day, love does not hurt the other person. You need to make sure you stop hurting and offending that person. Anything other than this is not love. You cannot love and hurt somebody. If you think you can do it, you may have a deeper problem.  

  • Step two. You respect the person you love.

Love is like tango. You need two for a tango. Love involves a relationship. You cannot love in a void. Doesn’t matter who you love, if you love, you love somebody. And, when you relate to a person, things usually get complicated. Love is a complicated thing. And sometimes may not even seem rational. Relationships mean closeness, familiarity, intimacy. All these are part and parcel of this complicated mosaic called love. But one thing should be very clear: Love never means a license for disrespect. On the contrary. If you say you love somebody you start by respecting, honoring even, that person in its entirety. And you respect him/or her as they are. Not as they will be, or as they should be, or as you’d like them to be. You just respect them. And you respect not only the person. You respect the privacy of that person. Intimacy, familiarity, never translates into disrespect of privacy when you love somebody. And most of all, you totally respect the freedom of the person you love. Love doesn’t take slaves. Love is love because is an expression of free will. You should be very worried about this because without free will there is no love. You cannot say you love somebody, and in the same time, take away from them the very thing that allows you to love them. This is, basically, a litmus test.  

  • Step three. You protect and defend the person you love.

This, again, is a basic stage of a greater thing. The next step will be “You are doing good things for the person you love”. But, before we start doing those great things, we need, at least, to start doing the basics. Being there when they need us. Defending them. Protecting them. What good can we do if we can’t even protect them? Things, of course, can get complicated. And, maybe there are times when they don’t want us to protect them. Or they don’t want our defense. It’s OK. They are free to choose to decline our help. But we need to manifest the intention. And we need to be willing to do it. I’m not talking here about all those complicated particular situations. Doesn’t matter how it will materialize. If you love, you defend and protect. You step up to do it. And you do as much as you can. What matters is that in your brain love triggers the mechanism of protection of the person you say you love. If you really have a problem understanding this concept, the best thing to do is to ask a mother what it means. For her is a very clear concept.  

  • Step four. You are doing good things for the person you love.

This may sound like a general thing, but I intended it as an umbrella for everything that is good. It may be patience, tenderness, attention, help of any kind, a smile, a touch, a chance, a gift, a chore. It can be many things. Material or immaterial. And it may be complicated by the definition and the context of “good”. I’m not going to embark into discussing all these complexities. The essential thing is that, when you love, you don’t only stop harming the person you love, but you start doing something. Love is not lame. Love is not a song, or a fuzzy thing. Love does. Not things in general. But good things. Sometimes people say (and many parents do): I did this or that. And “this or that” are, most of the time, vanilla-good things. I’m not talking here about vanilla-good things. I’m not talking about monumental things either. Maybe later (when I’ll touch on the sacrifice). But here I’m talking about things that are good and nice. The opposite of hurt. Sometimes, people, after a while, in a love relationship, stop doing good things. For some reason, they think that not hurting is enough. There is a strange phenomenon in love, where the bar is lowered little by little, until love becomes only equivalent with not hurting and some vanilla-good things. That is not love. That is the mummification of love.  

  • Step five. You trust the person you love.
  • Step six. You forgive the person you love.
  • Step seven. You pay a price and in the end you sacrifice yourself for the person you love.