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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Love & Obligation

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Bell Hooks, writer and critic, says, “Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition.”  So, let’s consider his words and explore…

I always thought that it is impossible to do something out of obligation and love at the same time.  After all, if we’re doing it out of love, shouldn’t we be doing it willingly?

That concept was changed when I was going through a suicidal period in my life.  My family had taken me on a trip to Montreal to try and help me through my troubles.  We were sitting in a McDonald’s and I had said something like, “Well, you guys are just doing this out of obligation, not out of love.”  And my sister said, “What’s the difference?”

The distinction didn’t quite click back then, but in retrospect, it is one of the most powerful distinctions.  It taught me that when we love someone, we are by default obligated to do certain things.  That obligation is out of necessity, but it is out of the foundational love that created the obligation.  A simple example is that of children.  We are legally responsible to take care of them up until the age of eighteen.  We can say that we are thus obliged.  But that obligation isn’t out of someone forcing us.  It is out of love.

In times when there is in fact no love, sometimes obligation creates the love.  This is true in arranged marriages.  There’s no love to start, but there is an obligation of living together, of being together, of growing a family together for the rest of your lives.  With that mind set, the parties may as well create the love within them.  I’m sure that’s exactly what happens in all successful arranged marriages.

How do we use this distinction?  If we’re doing something that we feel obligated towards, let us first ask ourselves, is the foundation of this obligation based on love?  If so, that itself helps us to feel better and do what we need to do.  If not, then we may ask, is this something that I can grow to love?  Again, that may help us to move towards doing what we need to do anyway, only now with a sense of passion and enthusiasm.

In the case where there is no foundational love, and we cannot grow the love to support the obligation, then we can reason ourselves out of the obligation.  It may sound harsh, but it can help us to make powerful decisions in our lives.  For example, internationally known speaker and author, Brian Tracy, says that he bets there is at least one relationship (either business or personal) that we currently have, that we would not have made in the past if we knew then what we know now.  And, if we discover this, should we not then transition (gradually move) ourselves out of that relationship?  Do we have friends that we feel obliged to be with, that don’t support us and don’t empower us to be around them?  Why should we continue these relationships?

Life isn’t about us doing something and somebody else doing something else.  What it’s about, is, each of us doing what we’re doing with joy and love.  I submit that with that attitude, we can do what we need to do, and then do what we always wanted to do.

We hear so many commercials that say “with no obligation” and we tend to think that is what makes life great.  Well, with buying new products, maybe.  But life isn’t about not having any obligations.  In fact, obligations are what make us responsible people.  And, obligations are building blocks of love.

Let's love the world together...

Danish Ahmed, blind visionary

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