This is not some sentimental notion. To love is a practical way to improve your well-being, and the well-being of others at the same time.
The evil demons of our nature like greed, envy, rivalry and tribalism disconnect us from each other. Whereas love connects us, it is the glue that holds humanity together. To love is to save ourselves from disconnection, isolation and selfishness – it is the greatest gift a human can give.
To love yourself and others
The psychologist Erich Fromm, in the book The Art of Loving, tells us that being a self-productive person in your own right, full of self-understanding, self-regulation and self-love comes first. Then, wishing for the same in another person creates a bridge of relatedness and emotion, which is love.
The better angels of our nature like care, kindness, respect, empathy, compassion, responsibility and understanding, form the basis of “practicing” love. Fromm wrote: “Love is an activity, not a passive affect…In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving, not receiving.” In other words, as Fromm said, “[t]he main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism”.
Fromm talked about different types of love such as romantic, familial and brotherly love. The thing that they all have in common is what Fromm called an ‘interpersonal fusion’. The need for interpersonal fusion is the most powerful drive that keeps the human race together. The failure to achieve it ends in destruction, either self-destruction or destruction of others.
Fellowship and goodwill
Fromm believed that for society to function well, we need to express brotherly love (or fellowship) which is the most fundamental kind. Fellowship is based on the experience that all people are one. Whatever differences people are perceived to have pale in comparison to our common core. Read about altruism and goodwill here »
I believe there is less fellowship on average than there was say 100 years ago. There seems to be more fundamental righteousness and less tolerance. I wonder if this is because the world has become less trustful of feelings and intuitions.
Also, fellowship is undermined by an economic system that forces us to compete with each other in day-to-day life. We compete for jobs, promotions, status and prestige. However, when there are civil emergencies like earthquakes, tsunamis, eruptions, cyclones, floods and storms people forget their differences and unite to support each other. This is our common core at work, binding us together.
The importance of relationships
Loving relationships are extremely important for mental and physical health. People who have strong, positive relationships live longer on average. Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Read more about the importance of relationships here »