Love Is Given, Not Received


While I was reading recently, I found this quote by investor, entrepreneur and all round clever person, Naval Ravikant. “Love is given, not received.” And immediately I was struck by its profound simplicity as a philosophy for living.

It’s a truism that reaches right to the core of being. You cannot go out and ‘get’ love for yourself, but armed with unlimited amounts of it, you are free to love everyone you meet. Of course this is a challenge, particularly when we are faced with the constant news cycle, social media and that annoying colleague who keeps tapping their pen against their teeth. And in days where everything has a price, it is easy to withhold our love because, after all this time we don’t feel we’ve received enough in return. And we’re tired.

But when love becomes conditional it’s no longer love. When you want something in return, it becomes a trade or a sale, or a barter. Real love is shared without any conditions, comes at no price, is unlimited and requires us to let go in order to that it becomes manifest. Real love is unconditional – and it can set us free.

When we release our expectations of receiving anything as reward, we are free to love everyone. We can even wish our worst enemies happiness and joy, despite disagreeing with everything they stand for. We can even give our love to Donald Trump. We can and we should, because harbouring ill will toward anyone does more harm to us than it does to them.

Extending genuine love in all directions allows us to truly explore what it means to be alive. We can celebrate the successes of others as if they were our own. We can lose ourselves in art and the sound of running water. We can find worlds in dew drops. We can find ourselves suspended in a web of joy by extending love and good will to everyone in our packed train carriage, noisy office or going-nowhere-fast traffic jam.

Loving unconditionally requires us to let go of judgement. We cannot judge someone and scoff at their misfortune while at the same time wishing them good fortune and happiness. But we can empathise and try to understand. We can be interested. And we can be gregarious and infinitely generous with our time and our attention.

It also frees us from existing in the context of others, which is where we usually find ourselves. We want to look good for this person; we don’t want someone else to see us fail; we must come first; we must save face; we must keep up with the Joneses – and on and on. Extending our love and wishes to everyone means that we must free ourselves from their judgement too. Now we aren’t doing it for anyone else, only ourselves, and for the first time in our lives we find ourselves being authentically us.

We aren’t doing it to prove someone wrong. We’re not trying to be better than anyone else. We’re not doing it because we’re being asked to. We’re not doing it because life is a contest. We’re doing it because it makes sense to see other humans as humans, to love them as we would wish to be loved, and to be free of all the unnecessary baggage that prevents us from flying.

Loving unconditionally – practicing loving kindness – sets us free. And with this new-found freedom we can be whoever we want to be and do whatever we want to do. And we can do it with love.

And when we receive no love in return? It doesn’t matter, because we have more than enough to around.