I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the power of love. No doubt it has great power. It can change lives and heal people. We all know a story or two about how love made a difference. People write songs and stories and make movies about how wonderful it is. I am not discounting those—I believe love is an incredibly powerful force. But I’ve learned a thing or two about love along my journey. The lie I wish to address in this post is that love will ultimately save those you care about. It won’t. It might make a difference, but it won’t save them. Here’s why:
First, part of really loving someone is to allow them to make their own choices. We can love as much as we are able, but we still must allow people to choose their own way, and if the way they choose happens to be different than what we want for them or what we know to be right, we still have to allow them to choose. Believing that our love will cause them to change and to make better choices is hopeful, but not completely true. There are many instances of this in recorded history. The scriptures hint at the first father-son relationship that went awry. God himself had a son named Lucifer, mentioned in the scriptures as a “son of the morning.”
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:12-15)
“And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, and was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning. And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:25-27)
Heavenly Father lost a son—many sons and daughters, in fact. But he allowed Lucifer to make the choice to rebel and to take with him all that wished to follow. I have no doubt he was loved—by his father, by his brother Jesus Christ (see Jess L. Christensen, “How can Jesus and Lucifer be spirit brothers when their characters and purposes are so utterly opposed?“) and by us, his brothers and sisters. Many believed in his plan, and did not gain an opportunity to come to earth. Others of us may have listened and wanted to believe, until we understood that it was his will to destroy the agency of man, which we knew was not right. It was probably frightening and difficult to oppose him, but oppose him we did (see Revelation 12:7-9). We won our ability to choose and we came to earth. But I have no doubt that losing a son and a brother was painful for us. We loved him, and yet it didn’t change him.
Adam and Eve, our first parents, lost a son too (see Genesis 4). Isaac and Rebecca lost a son (see Genesis 25). The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi and his wife Sariah lost two (see 1 Nephi). Many of us know wayward sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. We love them, and sometimes our love helps them make better choices. But sometimes it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hope. The scriptures also tell of stories where the faith of a parent helped a wayward child (see Mosiah 27). We should never lose hope.
The second reason I believe that love will ultimately save those you care about is a lie is because no amount of outside validation will help someone understand how to truly love himself. Until you learn to truly love and accept yourself, no one else will ever be able to convince you that you are worthy of love. One writer said it this way: “We cannot see the beauty in others when we are rejecting ourselves. When we allow others to define our worth, then of course we take it personally when someone rejects us—because we have already rejected ourselves. We then become reactive to others’ unloving behavior, trying to control them or avoid our own pain by getting angry, blaming, complying, resisting or withdrawing. Of course, none of this is loving, but we cannot be loving when we are judging and rejecting ourselves rather than loving and valuing ourselves.” (Margaret Paul, PhD, “Are You Strong Enough to Love?“) One of my favorite authors Louise Hay said this, “I have found that there is only one thing that heals every problem, and that is: to love yourself. When people start to love themselves more each day, it’s amazing how their lives get better. They feel better. They get the jobs they want. They have the money they need. Their relationships either improve, or the negative ones dissolve and new ones begin. Loving yourself is a wonderful adventure; it’s like learning to fly. Imagine if we all had the power to fly at will? How exciting it would be! Let’s begin to love ourselves now.” (12 Ways You Can Love Yourself Now)
My message of truth today is that love can achieve great things. Forgiveness can achieve great things. Don’t ever stop loving, forgiving or hoping. The God you believe in loves you unconditionally. Jesus Christ loves you unconditionally and that will never change. But loving yourself is the key. Love may not ultimately save the ones you love, but it will save you.