Loving is easier when recipients are not enemies

On Valentine’s Day, most people are thinking about romantic love.

I always think about Valentine’s Day my sophomore year in college. My boyfriend made me a homemade card and asked me to wear his lavaliere (a step before getting pinned).

He was smart enough not to buy it in advance, as I had rejected this idea previously. But once I said yes, he walked a mile and a half in the snow to buy me one.

He’s now my husband and has done many nice things for me on Valentine’s Days over the years. None have topped our first year Valentine’s Day together, though.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is a time for romantic love. But I’ve also been thinking this year about the other kinds of love that are important to me.

I love my family. I especially love getting together with my husband’s extended family — his two cousins and their spouses and six children. Add in my in-laws, an uncle, my brother- and sister-in-law and our niece and nephews and you have a house full. For an only child, looking around a crowded family room and seeing only people you’re related to (by marriage or blood, it really doesn’t matter) is a cool thing.

I love my friends. I ignore them and they ignore me as we get caught up in the little details of our own lives, but we know our friendship is always there. We can pick right where we left off whether we haven’t talked for days or weeks or months or even years. That’s a true gift to have in a relationship and I consider myself lucky to have it.

I love my neighbors. I should say I love the neighbors who take care of my dog and sweep the snow off my walk and shout “Hello” when they see me rushing to or from work.

But this is where I get into trouble. I do not love the neighbors who don’t shovel and never shout “Hello” when they see me.

Nor do I love the readers who have called me over the years and accused me of being corrupt or stupid or insensitive or anti-Christian. I do not love the people who flip me off when I take an extra few seconds to respond to a green light because I’m changing a CD. I do not love bigots or racists. I do not love those who take advantage of the weak or those who make themselves feel better by making others feel worse.

In short, I do not love my enemies — real, perceived or of the moment.

And I wonder what my world would be like if I did.

What would it take, I can’t help thinking, for me to love the very least of my enemies? To overcome the slight bit of disdain or contempt I feel? What would it take for me to love the worst of them? To overcome deep hurt or distrust or disappointment?

Would my enemies become my friends? Maybe some. Probably not all.

But I know our relationship would change. Two people don’t need to change for a relationship to change — only one person needs to start a different step to change the dance.

I don’t know if I can love my enemies. I don’t know if I’m strong enough. But I’d sure like to try. Maybe I can begin today.

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. This column first was published Feb. 14, 2008.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean