As life’s experiences and events unfold before me I find there are virtues that continue to emerge, virtues that I want and need to work on. Love is one example of a virtue that gives me hope, makes me happy or sad, and continues to offer challenges. I venture to say that it seems to be the most emotional virtue of all that exist on the planet. No matter the culture, no matter the city, no matter what nation, there are thousands and thousands of poems, films, books and stories that talk about love, unrequited love or the search for love. In fact, the question, “what is love” is the No. 4 question in the 2019 100 most asked questions on Google.
So how did I land here with my sentiment that love means always having to say you’re sorry? Well, I age myself with this memory. Some of you may remember the book called “Love Story.” It was about a handsome couple and the wife gets cancer and dies. It was very melodramatic but somehow within the story it became very popular to say, “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That is all I remember but I internalized it, as did many other young people. When you’re young it seems simpler to do this. For example, I screw up, I hurt my loved one, and because I love them, I never have to say I am sorry.
So I went my merry way through life thinking this is the way to operate. I did not realize the potential negative consequences of not apologizing to my loved ones as I took them for granted. Does this sound familiar? Not acknowledging a hurt over time seems really wrong and seems to be misguided. So I have learned the hard way with each unfolding event that perhaps we always need to say we are sorry. We always need to seek forgiveness. We always need to find redemption. We always need to acknowledge the hurt we have caused even if we think we are in the right.
The other side of an apology is forgiveness. What if I say I am sorry and my loved one on the other side does not want to forgive? This is tough and is the yin and the yang of an apology. I can’t say that I have any answers but what I can offer is food for thought. So what can we do to reexamine love and consider the power of the apology and seeking forgiveness? I went back to a few Bahá’í teachings that help ground me in getting back to a definition of love and figure out how to apologize and seek forgiveness.
My favorites are these statements by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who wrote:
“In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love. When the heart of man is aglow with the flame of love, he is ready to sacrifice all — even his life.”
“Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful. In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love.”
So if we believe in the great power of love, what does forgiveness have to do with it? He emphasizes its importance by stating:
“Let not your heart be offended with anyone. If someone commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of others. Refrain from reprimanding them, and if you wish to give admonition or advice, let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the bearer. Turn all your thoughts toward bringing joy to hearts. Beware! Beware! Lest ye offend any heart.”
This type of love is a tall order and we all fall short but there is more to learn. Shoghi Effendi wrote that in order to have a greater degree of love we must be patient and forgiving. He wrote, “A greater degree of love will produce a greater unity, because it enables people to bear with each other, to be patient and forgiving.”
As we approach Valentine’s Day, we are encouraged to seek out our loved ones that we have neglected to acknowledge them or offer an apology. I believe the world will be a better place if we truly love one another and always remember to say we are sorry. I leave you with this beautiful sentiment from Abdu’l-Bahá: “Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble and there is always time.” Happy Valentine’s Day!