Note: I define love as any act of caring for and hoping in another more than yourself. As such, love is not limited to romantic or child/parent or friend relationships.
One of the things that used to puzzle me about Valentine’s Day was the amount of hate it inspires in so many wonderful people. Every February 14th, my inbox/twitter/etc . . . is filled with “fuck Valentines Day,” “Care for yourself,” “A Hallmark Holiday.” Nary an “I love you” in sight.
Why on a day ostensibly devoted to love, so much hate?
I decided to think about that why this year.
In my musings, I narrowed it down to two issues. Valentine’s Day haters seem to focus on:
1. Commercialization (therefore trivialization) of genuine affection
2. How (un)loved they feel.
The former is hard to look beyond. Because yes, Hallmark (or whatever–think THE MAN) has recognized the legitimate power of real love and has used it to make A LOT of money. I get the reaction to the commercialization of love. I have it too, especially when I am mass-producing 27 Valentines for my son’s class so that “no one will feel left out.” There is a pressure to conform to what we think is what the rest of our group is doing (it’s also a biological pressure–we are pack/hive species; most of us like to be in a group). But we don’t have to conform to that particular groupthink. It’s obvious from my social media that there are plenty of people out there to form a new group. One that doesn’t limit itself to what big corporations are telling us Valentine’s Day needs to be.
Number two can be solved with a simple statement: It’s not about you or me. Valentine’s Day is not about my feeling loved and cared for. It is about my showing people that I love and care for them. It’s not about what I get. It’s about what I give. Giving without concern about what you receive back is love.
St. Valentine epitomized this love. In the Third Century, he secretly married people, knowing that if he were caught, he would be put to death. He was caught. He was beheaded. But still, he did it. He helped people love even though he was going to die. He helped people love even though it was an expression of love that he was denied as a priest. He helped people love because he believe that love matters and isn’t limited by our limited imagination.
St. Valentine knew that it wasn’t about him. He knew that love was a powerful force that must be perpetuated in all ways possible not just the ones that made him feel good.
Love matters. It is the most powerful action the human species is capable of and it is in no way limited to one day a year with rote and prescribed accessories. But having a day to remember love and value it is a pretty cool thing. I think that we end up focusing on the wrong thing when we think of love and Valentine’s Day. Let’s face it, the pink, red, shiny hearts and candies are pretty distracting, but we lose sight of some very valuable truths when we only note the superficial veneer. AND we end up perpetuating rather than accessing the deeper truth and power that this day
No one loves (or is loved) perfectly. There is always a lack. But St. Valentine wasn’t about making up for the lack but rather encouraging us to keep trying. Trying to love others without being concerned about the consequences. Trying to pay forward love despite how we might feel or hurt because love matters.
The advice people are tossing about like “take a bath,” “treat yourself to a movie,” or whatever self-love fits their personality is missing the point. If you hate Valentine’s Day for all that is wrong with it, make it right. Stop thinking about yourself. Go find someone you care about and tell them so. If you don’t care about anyone (I’m so sorry), find another human who lacks love and share some with them. It doesn’t have to be huge: a compliment, a smile, putting a quarter in the meter–these all perpetuate love and cause you to think beyond yourself.
The moment we take our eyes off ourselves and what we lack is the moment we can truly experience joy and love.
I think that if some of those Valentine’s Day haters stopped trying to show love to themselves and looked for ways to show others that they love them that the haters would find that which they seem to miss in this day.