What is love, anyway?

Last week I led a conversation around the question, "What does it mean to love someone?"

It is such an interesting question to me, with many possible answers. Here are some of my thoughts:

I think to love someone is to experience a desire for them to be happy.

I think wanting happiness for someone and seeing them not happy -- or fearing that they won't be happy in the future -- is one of the hardest things there is to experience.

And I think the discomfort of that experience leads us to try to "fix" things for other people: We give them unsolicited advice. We tell them how we would handle things. We offer subtle rewards and punishments to get them to behave differently. We do things "for their own good."

In short, we overstep our boundaries and act in ways that don't feel very loving at all.

I think a willingness to sit with the gap between our desire for people's happiness and the uncertain and often painful realities of life is one of the most important skills we can develop if we want to love well.

This is something we practice in our Alive & Connected conversations each month, where the most fundamental ground rule is that participants aren't allowed to offer each other suggestions or advice about anything that gets shared. We aren't there to "fix" each other's lives (which aren't broken in the first place!), but to honor each other, listen to each other, share with each other, and wish each other well.

To me, that is what love feels like: the freedom to be fully me, knowing that I will be supported and included, even when my life doesn't match up to other people's desires for me.

What about you? What does it mean to you to love someone? What else does this question make you think about? I would love to hear.