Many of us have heard the saying “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. Like all sayings, they can be misinterpreted. Love is one of the most powerful gods. Love is so much more than romance, than warm fuzzy feelings for another. Love can be an unshakeable force, it can inspire us to greatness or tear us apart.
Never having to say sorry with regards to love has been misused by many as an excuse to behave badly, to not care about the feelings of others, to live in a purely self-centred state. It is also often implied that if we really love someone we should always be willing to forgive their behaviour. In Buddhism, it is widely regarded that we are all Buddhas, that we all have the ability for true compassion. However, we are also all human, with all the wonderful implications, limitations and foibles that it entails.
We have all known people whose behaviour has been less than glowing, who are so entrapped in their own worlds and minds that they often create a reality which is completely and utterly different to the one that you may experience. As humans, we have a shared reality and shared human experience, but as beings that are supposedly self-aware we become trapped in this self-awareness to the point of it spilling over into less than glowing behaviour. Love accepts the humanity of everyone. Love accepts reality. Love is compassion.
Compassion, however, doesn’t mean we have to take everyone’s crap. Compassion is understanding, trying to see the bigger picture, to understand why someone behaves the way that they do. In this attempt, we step outside of our “small selves” and out into a greater reality. We open up our perception. We may never truly understand, but at least in the attempt we see that the world is more than just our experience, our perceived reality. We recognise the experience and reality of others.
When that reality hurts us, when people do or say things to undermine us for whatever reason, should we simply forgive and move on? I’m not entirely sure it’s within human capacity to truly forgive, though people like Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh are real-life inspirations for this way of being. We may find that the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Perhaps we need to focus less on “us” forgiving “them” and simply focus on living our own lives in way that means that we will never have to say “I’m sorry” to another. This, in my opinion, is the real interpretation of the saying “Love means never having to say I’m sorry”.
We may fail, and there is nothing wrong with saying “I’m sorry”, however.
When we come against people we simply cannot be with, we can still try to understand them, to look beyond our self. It can often put us into the bigger picture, allowing more of a peripheral vision of the world that encompasses everything and in doing so, allowing the self to fall away in integrated living. Sometimes we simply have to walk away from that relationship in order to work compassionately with our selves, for we simply suffer too much at that given time to be able to function properly. We can do this with partners we’ve been romantically involved with – when it no longer works, we can bow to each other and walk away with respect, and hopefully a little compassion for both them and ourselves.
What we have to focus on most though is our own life, and our own behaviour. We have to live our lives in a way that means we will hopefully never have to apologise for our behaviour. It’s not an easy path, but it’s one that is worthwhile. In doing so, we will walk lightly upon the earth, loving the earth with every fibre of our being, loving everything on the earth with eyes wide open and a heart filled with compassion. We can love life, the power of the gods moving through us and around us, and live our lives in celebration of this.
As the first snowdrops bloom here in the UK, and the songs of the birds change to love of each other, of the warming sun and the greening of the land, may our hearts too be filled with love.