About Valentine’s Day

Valentines Day is not just another Hallmark holiday, like Father’s Day or Mother’s Day.  St. Valentine was not just a creation of merchandizers looking for a new reason to shame us into buying stuff. 

There are several legends about this 3rd century martyr. The one I like centers on a law allowing married soldiers not to go to war. Emperor Claudius of Rome, leader of a small army and not wanting to make it any smaller, forbade his soldiers to marry. Valentine was a priest who valued love more than war or fear of Claudius, so he defied the ban and married soldiers and their sweethearts anyway. To mark the occasions he gave couples parchment cutouts of hearts. (Altogether, now: “Awww!”). Claudius beheaded him to set an example, so the Church, setting its own example, waited 900 years until the 12th century, to make made him a saint.

Fear and love have always fought for our hearts.

Claudius was not unique in using fear. Dictators have always used it. Hitler promoted fear of Jews to bring Germany together in the 1930’s. Stalin used fear of Siberia, torture and being disappeared. 

Even elected leaders have used it. Nixon once said “People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday school, but it’s true.” His fear of impeachment led to an early retirement.

Trump said, “Real power is — I don’t even want to use the word — fear.” But he sure likes using the power it generates.

Contrast that with Churchill’s “Never, never, never give in!” Or Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

Or just about anything from Jesus Christ.

Falling in love is fraught with fear. Will she love me back? Does he notice me? Am I too old, skinny, fat, ugly? Should I hook up with her? Can I trust him? Contemplating marriage is one of the scariest things ever.  Will he change over time? Will she still love me if I lose my job or my hair? Will he love me when I’m grey and my attributes are drooping?      

Sometimes fear wins. Sometimes love wins. 

I knew a couple who had diametrically opposite political views and, like most, feared the opposing party. But they held hands whenever they walked until her arthritis made it impossible. Love – love, as they might say in tennis.

Another couple had ingrained fears from similar childhood traumas. One became reactive; the other became distrustful and controlling. Despite great chemistry, they never learned to salve each other’s fears. One day her controlling triggered his reactivity, which triggered her distrust, which triggered him being thrown out like a bad piece of fruit. Love lost; fear won.

Dating websites are great examples of the fear-love conflict. Are you texting with a scammer, a potential rapist, or your next true love? But our need for love makes us brave: one third or more of marriages today began from on-line dating.

We could all learn about love from dogs. They have no fear of loving – even the biggest jerk ever – unconditionally.  Maybe they should be called “valentines”.

St. Valentine never defined human love. He just celebrated it above all else, especially fear.

Some of us have experienced and lost love. Some just read about it. The lucky ones have it. The smart lucky ones cherish, protect, and nurture it – every day.

Longtime symbol of Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe, once said: “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”  

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” – Elie Weisel

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” – Pablo Neruda

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”  – Nat King Cole song.

My favorite definition of love came from Dr. Seuss: “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” 

There’s not a scintilla of fear in these quotes. Love wins; fear loses.

Thank you St. Valentine.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)