Reflections on the Meaning of Love

Simple Expressions of Love

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

-Mother Teresa

As an extension of Bell Hooks’ recommendation to “simply live,” I’d like to now focus on simple expressions of love.

It’s important not to underestimate the value of a simple gesture of love or affection. A smile, sharing a laugh, looking deeply into somebody’s eyes, saying thank you, a pat on the shoulder, giving a tip, helping an elder carry their groceries, and telling someone what you appreciate about them, are but a few simple acts of love that can have a powerful impact on someone’s day (and beyond).

We often naturally do these things, without even realizing it.  But, it can be fun to make a conscious decision to increase the amount of times we do these things each day, week, etc.  You can set a personal goal of doing these once, twice, three times a day or more. It is a truly enjoyable experience because it generates positive feelings on both ends – for both the giver and receiver.

Telling someone you like them (as long as it’s done with respect…not talking about unwanted sexual advances here) is a great exercise in personal growth. It seems that for many people in the modern world, explicitly declaring your like of another, directly to them, can feel quite embarrassing.  This is because people have been psychologically hurt in this area.  Think about children: for the most part, young people lack self-consciousness about sharing their like of another human being.  Of course, there are exceptions, such as when a child has experienced early trauma, but in general, a quality of openness is present.  That’s one of the things we all love about kids; their freedom to show and share their love and enthusiasm with full abandon.

At some point, through a variety of conditioning experiences, children learn that this isn’t ok.  For example, a child may grow up with parents that are uncomfortable with physical displays of affection.  The parents eventually, either in subtle or obvious ways, send the message to the child that affection isn’t acceptable.  Or, say in another situation, a child approaches a fellow classmate on the playground that has a history of being humiliated for liking another person. When the first child tells the second that he/she likes them, the second responds by laughing and teasing them – essentially, acting out the ways they were hurt themselves.  In both of these instances, the young person may draw the conclusion that it’s not ok to show like or love to another.  You see this a lot with teenagers who feel like it’s uncool to be totally upfront with somebody about how they feel.  That’s learned behavior.

Liking other human beings is natural, so take the direction of sharing more simple gestures of love, even if it feels uncomfortable in the moment.  In the long run, it will feel great and will likely foster greater connection to others.

Next Section: Caring Love


  1. Good to hear this here.

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