Henry Van Dyke once wrote: “Love is not getting, but giving; not a wild dream of pleasure, and madness of desire … it is goodness, and honor, and peace and pure living.” (Little Rivers: A Handful of Heather)
In a world that seems to celebrate immediate gratification, partying at any cost, and lack of personal mastery, Mr. Van Dyke’s words seem to soothe as a balm to a wound. As the fabric of morality continues to unravel, how do we learn — and teach — sound principles for righteous living in order to enjoy genuine love?
Touching on the four concepts Mr. Van Dyke mentioned, a few insights that may help us focus on the bull’s eye of love:
- Goodness: Henry David Thoreau once said, “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”
Joseph Smith taught this: “Look for the good; build up the good; sustain the good; and speak as little about the evil as you possibly can.” (Conference Report 4 / 13:8) In relationships, can you think of much better advice in order to build and sustain a loving atmosphere?
Honor: Sir Winston Churchill made this now-famous comment: “Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
Having honor allows us to draw lines and keep boundaries. It grants us strength to do the best we know to do, even when it is difficult. In love, it may keep us safely within the bounds that allow trust and goodness to grow.
- Peace: One of the best quotes I have come across is this one, from William Ewart Gladstone: “We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.”
In personal relationships, the love of power — in the form of controlling another individual — may insidiously eat away at the foundation of the very love one is seeking to enjoy. Peace, with our family members, our friends, our associates, grows as we dig deeper for the power found in love. Safely in that environment, there is no need to control or exercise power over another.
- Pure Living: Elder H. Burke Peterson once counseled, “The brightest light and the clearest signal come from the cleanest instrument.” (Conference Report 10 / 74:99)
Seeking to purify ourselves, shaking off the dark dust of telestial influence, our vision of love increases as our ability to show love in more graceful and tender ways improves.
Over and over again, we learn that in order to change things, we may need to seek merely to change ourselves. Or shift a thought here and dismiss a temptation there.
President John Taylor wrote that, “Virtue does not consist simply in being prevented from committing evils, but in having temptations presented before us and then governing our passions and appetites.” (Journal of Discourses, 22:339)
Love is a process that takes time and energy and focus on the best things in order to offer the best results. Far from the propaganda offered through media and current philosophy of the world, Love — in the real and pure sense, part and parcel of heaven above — is alive and well. The road of love offers so many chances to develop and strengthen:
- Those moments when a couple kneel across from one another to make their commitments of holy matrimony
- When a new baby takes that first mortal cry,
- When tenderly tending a loved one who is ill or downtrodden,
- When prioritizing so that there is time to build loving memories
- When bringing a “peace offering” to the table — in honor of our love
- When working through tough times together
- When doing little things to bring a smile or build the goodness
- When sacrificing our individual desire for the greater good of the relationship
- When working to continually be a better “us” in order to be a better loving partner
Yes, love is alive and well. It is available to all of us. In order to build the real deal, we have to dismiss the world’s cheap imitations. Building upon simple righteous concepts and sound principles, and then seeking to give the best we have to offer, we may enjoy the genuine thing.