Recently I've encountered from several sources the idea that true love means accepting another person exactly as they are. I beg to disagree. Rather, love means piercing through a person's facade - the one that causes so much suffering both to themselves and others - in order to see, value and bring to light the reality of who they REALLY are in their deepest core. In Jewish Mysticism, this is called "raising the sparks." It is an attitude which realizes that at the root of our being is a spark of the divine life, one that is often hidden and covered over by the defense mechanisms - things like denial, projection and false pride - that work to keep this spark unmanifested. Oftentimes it takes the eye of imagination of a loved one to see through these mechanisms and to pay close attention to the sacredness that is ever-present at our core, thereby bringing the inner spark of goodness to the surface through a loving gaze, verbal compliments and an encouraging attitude.
However, there also exists an all-important second aspect of love, one which involves CHALLENGING a loved one to die to their old ways in order to be reborn into the new. Because life is short, the pitfalls many and the distractions all-consuming, it is supremely important for each of us to challenge one another into becoming our very best self. This means doing a bit of poking and prodding, playful critiquing - especially through repeating a person's own best words and insights back to them - in order to get them to see through their illusions and act from their truest self. After all, we are here on this Earth to GROW, and growth means changing into a better version of ourselves. Because striving for excellence AND resting in our core are two integral aspects of the human journey, a true lover of our soul will work to encourage us in BOTH of these aspects.
Photo: Rocky Mountain National Park (CO) on a windy day
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.