Sermon: Love Enough




SERMON  “Love Enough”

“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.”

“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.”

These words of Zen Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh may well explain the mystery of how we can profess love for one another yet continue to experience pain.

While love may be thought to be one of the most quintessential capacities of the human condition, indeed, much of our faith leads us to believe it is the core of, and goal of, our existence, it is also very much a learned dynamic interaction that improves resonance with deliberate practice and focused attention.

True Love is active, it is a communion, a covenant.

Erich Fromm, in his book The Art of Loving  tells us:

To love is to lose control.

Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.

Lovers need to know how to lose themselves and then how to find themselves again.

(He affirms)

Love is primarily giving, not receiving.

Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love.

A feeling comes and it may go.

Love requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.” 

Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a “standing in,” not a “falling for.”  

Love is not a resting place, but moving, growing, working together; when there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness

(Fromm concludes)

Mature love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality; a power which breaks through the walls which separate, which unites with each other others; love overcomes the sense of isolation and separateness

“Infantile love follows the principle: “I love because I am loved.” 

Mature love follows the principle: “I am loved because I love.” 

Immature love says: “I love you because I need you.” 

Mature love says: “I need you because I love you.” 

For as long as we have had words to speak, we have used them to capture subjective definitions of love.

The Ancient Greeks had six definitive kinds of love – and within some of them, even more specific kinds.

1. Eros, named after the Greek god of fertility, represented sexual passion and intense desire. Eros was often viewed as a dangerous manifestation of love as it was perceived as a fiery and irrational, a form of love that could take hold of you and possess you.  Indeed, with Eros, you were at risk of losing control of your senses. Such loss of control frightened the Greeks. Irony would have many today hoping to fall “madly” in love.

2. Philia/Phileō, described deep friendship, a companionable love.  Love of affection and genuine fondness. More than that camaraderie and loyalty. Loyalty yes, and sacrificing (friendship that developed between brothers in arms who had fought side by side on the battlefield), as well as sharing one’s emotions with those they love.  A trusting love.

(Another kind of philia, sometimes called storge, embodied the love between parents and their children.)

3. Ludus, was for the gift of play, the idea of playful love, such as the affection between children and new friends. There were more extenuating applications of this playful love, but we will leave that a for another sermon.

4. Agape Love.  Perhaps most radical, agape or selfless love. A love that one extended to all people, regardless of family or friend relation, most often designated to strangers.  Agapē desires only the good of the one loved. It is a consuming passion for the well-being of others.

Agapē is not kindled by the merit or worth of it’s object, but it originates in it’s own God-given nature. God is love.

Agape was later translated into Latin as caritas, which is the origin of our word “charity.”

Said to be highest form of Christian love – or in our case Faith-originated love.

LOVE is the Covenant of THIS Church.

Agape Love:  Our capacity to care about strangers.

5. Philautia, was love of the self and of this variety of love Greeks realized there were two types:

– an unhealthy version associated with narcissism, where one became self-obsessed and focused perhaps on personal fame and fortune and most certainly self-interest.

– and, a healthier love that enhanced one’s capacity to love. An interpretation to be that if you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have the ability to  give love to others.

6. Pragma meant longstanding love.  This, the mature love – the deep understanding that developed between long-married couples, long-time partners.

Pragma was about making an effort to give love rather than just receive it making compromises to help the relationship work over time, and showing patience and tolerance.

Humanist Philosopher Erich Fromm observed that we expend too much energy on “falling in love” and need to learn more how to “stand in love.”

Pragma is the awareness and practice of standing in love.

In Hebrew we find four words for love, but they are not always translated as love.  

  • Ahav (love),
  • Racham (tender mercies – a romantic love)
  • Dodi (beloved as spousal love), and
  • Ra’ah (brotherly love, or friendship).

Footnote: During the Babylonian exile, Aramaic became the language spoken by the Jews, and Aramaic square script replaced the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. After the Achaemenid Empire captured Babylon, Aramaic became the language of culture and learning. ((In Aramaic (the Aramaic Bible) is the word Chav ))

In Aramaic we find the word Chav which is similar to the Hebrew word Ahav to mean love.  

but, their definitions are different.

The key difference between the words: 

Chav is a love that is not necessarily returned. Chav is speaking of a love that flows from just one person and is not completed.  

For love to be completed, it must be returned. 

Love can be lonely and painful if it is not returned. 

Racham is a completed love.  This is true love.

With these in mind, we could perhaps summarize a Biblical

Cliff’s Notes to the Corinthians with:

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love is intensely passionate, yet

Love is not easily angered.

Love is deeply affectionate.

Love is loyal.

Love always protects.

Love always trusts.

Love one another.

Love one another.

Looking beyond our Unitarian Universalist Judeo-Christian roots, we find verbal applications of love in languages around the world.

We are told that Sanskrit has ninety-six words for love. 


I am Not going to list every one of them 😉

Thich Nhat Hanh in his wisdom-filled way delineates a concise enumeration of the essence of these – by relating to us

Buddhism’s Four Aspects of true love,

translated as: loving-kindness or benevolence, compassion, joy, and equanimity or freedom  

He tells us that true, authentic, unconditional love becomes possible when we practice cultivating these four aspects.

He explains that

The first aspect is metta or maitri, which can be translated as loving-kindness or benevolence:

Metta is related to the words for “gentle” (like a soft, misty rain) and “friend,” signifying the good-natured, kind-hearted feeling we have for a close friend. A respectful regard, deep sense of appreciation, accepting, and loyal.

This idea of loving-kindness and benevolence is

not only the desire to make someone happy;

it is the ability to bring joy and happiness to the person you love.

The second element of true love is compassion, karuna. This is not only the desire to ease the pain of another person, but the ability to do so.

Karuna is related to the word karma.

It is the intention and capacity to relieve and transform suffering, to lighten sorrow. While the word karuna is generally “translated as “compassion,” which literally means to suffer with,”  it is good to note that we don’t need to suffer ourselves in order to alleviate the suffering of another person. Doctors and nurses, for instance, do not have to suffer illness in order to relieve their patients’ pain.

Karuna is described as the “quivering of the heart” we experience when we are open and able to truly see suffering and are moved to do something about it.

Knowledge and understanding are always at the root of the practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh tells us

Deep looking is needed, “directed toward the person you love. Because if you do not understand this person, you cannot love properly.”

The third element of true love is joy, mudita. If there is no joy in love, it is not true love.

If you are suffering all the time, if you cry in sadness all the time, and if you make the person you love cry in sadness, this is not really love.

That is not to say there are no tears in love.

Rather, it is true love that seeks to generate joy and nurture it.

Happiness and joy are only possible with true love.

More than that, true love has the power to heal and transform sadness into joy.

The fourth aspect is upeksha, meaning equanimity or freedom. This is the love of commitment and of covenant. It is a love of devotion in the truest sense.  In true love, you attain freedom. When you love with devotion, you bring freedom to the person you love. 

If the opposite is true, it is not true love. 

Thich Nhat Hanh:

You must love in such a way that the person you love 

feels free, 

not only outside 

but also – inside. 

A good question – a wise question – for testing out whether your love is something real is:

“Dear one, do you have enough space in your heart 

and all around you?” 

“Dear one do you have enough space in your heart and all around it”

True Love listens deeply to that answer. 

The Key to whether or not it is True Love is found in the Response of the Questioner, once the question is answered:

If the one you love says I have not enough space I need more freedom,

True Love responds with more freedom. 

If the one you love says I have too much space I need more closeness,

True Love responds with more closeness

Anytime the response is different it is not true love,

it is ego taking the lead trying to direct a space it has no place or ability to do anything other than cause damage in. 

“To love without knowing how to love

wounds the person we love.”





It is not merely our desire to give and receive these elements –

– it is our ability to do so that constitutes 

real love.

The Four Measurables of Buddhism in relation to love could well be:

Love creates freedom and clarity.

Love creates safety and comfort.

Love creates peace and unity.

Love creates happiness and its manifestations.

A key to Love is

Deep Listening

Learning to Speak with Love Again

Practicing loving speech is essential.  To act in loving ways is essential.

To achieve loving in words and deeds, we need to look deeply into the nature of our suffering and our joy.  We must learn also to recognize the suffering and joy in those we love. 

Understanding someone’s suffering is one of the bests gift we can give another person.

If we do not understand, we cannot love.

What of the practice of loving?

Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate

he describes five ways we express and experience love.

According to this theory, each person has primary and secondary love languages.  These are our preferred ways of experiencing love.  Of receiving love.

The five love languages are:

Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through spoken words speaking of praise, appreciation, fondness, passion, endearments and sentiments.

Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love.

Receiving Gifts: Gifting is symbolic of love and affection.

Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided, undistracted attention.

– Physical Touch: With this love language, the affection is felt through physical touch. It can be sex or holding hands.

Each of us assign priority ranking to these love languages.

We are happiest and feel most loved when we experience love regularly by way of our primary love language preference.

Our joy seeps away when we do not receive love in the way we need it most.

Most of us are familiar with the studies that point to babies who do not receive love die.  Some of us too, know of the “silent nurseries” where babies born into war-torn and poverty-stricken locales living in orphanages without sufficient staff to care for them learn in infancy – there is no sense in crying because no one responds.  So, they stop crying.

What an eery sound of silence that must be.

In similar ways, as adults, when our needs for love go unanswered, we shut down.

If, for instance, our primary love language is Physical Touch and we go days, or weeks or more without a hug, or holding hands, or a caress, our heart wilt.

If, our primary love language is Words of Affirmation, and we rarely if ever receive affectionate words, and are not told,  “You are important to me” ; “I adore you” and “I love you,” our heart carries aching wounds.

If Quality Time is our primary love language, and the person we love is too busy with work and other distractions to honor our need for dedicated time together, our hearts become sorrow-filled.

When our needs are not met we experience feelings of rejection, of sadness, of loneliness.  We feel unloved. And, even unlovable.

And, the reality is that many times this is not an accurate reflection of those we love not loving us. 

Rather, it is that we collectively do not understand the need to understand each other.  And the importance of acting according to what we discover about each other.

True Love Listens Deeply!

True Love Responds Lovingly!

When we discover what the love language is of someone we love, True Love responds with that love language.

But – we may wonder – What if the primary love language of the person we love is difficult for us to express? 

This is where we return to the Four Aspects of Love in Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and look inside our own hearts to discover if we have effectively cultivated the ability to embody True Love, and where we may need more practice. 

The desire, inclination, and ability to love the person we love in the way in which they most want to Be Loved is the test of True Love.

“Dear one, do you have enough space in your heart 

and all around you?” 

Are we prepared to ask this question to who we love, for it begs an answer for which we must be ready to respond to.

Romantic love, yes, but also let’s extend this to all those we feel called to love.

Our children.  Our parents.  Our siblings.  Our friends. Our neighbors. And those in our wider communities. 

In the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he concludes (1 Corinthians 13:13):

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. He is referring to Agape Love.”

Charity and our ability to care for strangers.

As Unitarian Universalists we are covenanted to be Standing on the Side of such Love.

When we feel called to extend love to others, a person or a group in need of our love, it would behoove us to pause first, rather than be led by assumptions, and instead ask,

“Dear one, do you have enough space in your heart 

and all around you?” 

or perhaps said another way,

“Dear one, how can I best demonstrate my love for you

in a way that you will feel most loved?”

As we Stand on the Side of Love, may we always and all ways listen deeply and respond fully.



POSTLUDE  Performed by Jason Curran, Musician