Kittens, puppies, cute kids, sunrises, flowers, chocolate, dinner, coffee, my lover. I don’t know how many times I have said that I love these and other things and experiences. Probably as many times as you and the other people we know. I love, love. Who doesn’t?
Love is the subject of stories, poetry and song. Love is sought after as a goal of our lives. There is romantic love, and the Christian concept of agape love. There is affectionate love and love of things and situations we find to be pleasant. A lot of the time we use the word love as an adjective for something we like very much.
Love has been placed on a pedestal as the highest form of emotion we can experience. Similarly, words like awesome, fantastic, and excellent have their own pedestals. Love has become just another superlative word. How can I effectively equate my love of chocolate bars with my affection for my lover? I can’t, really. Both are wonderful, but chocolate can never replace a human being. The English word “love” has become diluted and is now, merely an adjective for “like”.
We have been admonished to love our enemies. But actually, do you really and truly want to get all snuggly and cuddle up with your most hostile adversary? Do you even want to invite her to your birthday party? Do you sincerely wish her well? Probably not. I think that “love” is not the correct word in this situation either.
There are also times when we feel dislike and unhappiness towards people and things we profess to love. Maybe your friend snubbed you in public. Perhaps your cat coughed up a hairball. You possibly ate too much chocolate. We certainly don’t have warm, fuzzy feelings of happiness and joy at those times. You certainly don’t want to disavow the people and things we love either.
In Buddhism, there’s a quality called “metta”. In other disciplines, the shorthand term might be “loving-kindness”. The translation of metta to loving-kindness isn’t precise, but is good enough for most descriptions. Loving-kindness allows for equanimity in feelings. You can feel empathy, sympathy and even kindness towards your enemy even though you don’t wish to express physical love to her.
Metta is also a way of smoothing out the situations with people and things you like or love very much whenever they do something unpleasant. Metta keeps you from losing your cool.
Loving-kindness is a type of acceptance. Sometimes this is verbalized as, “This too, will pass”. You feel the goodness or the badness honestly and affirm it, then you allow the emotion to just naturally subside.
Metta is not to be confused with allowing loved ones or adversaries to just have their way with you. The idea is not to turn you into a doormat. Certainly, you don’t want to be taken advantage of, by friend nor foe. Neither do you wish to harm or destroy your lover or adversary. The idea is to temper kindness with wisdom.
A careful examination of the situation, good or bad, is what’s called for. Kindness without grasping, selflessness and peacefulness without harm to or from others is the idea of metta. It’s not a stupid sentimentality of la la la. It’s not pretending everything is or even will be alright. Situations can be wonderful and joyful, but they will pass.
Such as with a hurtful scenario; you’ll feel pain, but it will pass. You can deal with all situations effectively by practicing metta or loving-kindness. You can deal out a friendly pat on the back when warranted or issue a bit of wrath wisely when that is called for. You just don’t overdo the action. You can firmly show your displeasure without resorting to murder and mayhem. Just as you can express joy and approval without being overly-effusive about it.
In a nutshell, metta is equanimity in thought and action.
The Blue Jay of Happiness says to go with the flow wisely.