How To Love


The School of Life


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one of the great intellectual puzzles that daily life forces all of us to consider on a slightly to regular basis is why are other people so awful how come they're so unreliable aggressive deceitful mean two-faced or cowardly as we search for answers we tend quite naturally to fall back on a standard compact and tempting explanation because they're terrible people their appalling crooked deformed or bad and that's simply how some types are the conclusion may be grim but it also feels very true and fundamentally unbudgeted however when things feel especially clear-cut we may be goaded to try out an unusual thought experiment which stands to challenge a great many of our certainties and render the world usefully more complicated we can try to look at our fellow human beings through the eyes of love the experiment requires particular stamina and is best attempted a quieter less agitated times of day when we manage it it can count as one of our highest ethical achievements we are normally resolutely on our own side deeply invested in our own point of view and prone to trade in settled and moralizing certainties yet very occasionally we have the strength to look at other people through a different lens we notice that their reality is likely to be far more complicated and nuanced than we first expected and the contrary to our impulses they may be deserving of more sympathy and consideration than we thought even though they might have hurt or frustrated us even though their behavior might run contrary to what we expect and even though the temptation is always to call them idiots and numbskulls and move on looking at another person through the eyes of love involves some of the following steps imagination moralistic thinking identifies people closely with our worst moments loved thinking pushes us in another direction it bids us to use our imaginations to pick why someone might have done a regrettable deed and yet could remain a fitting target for a degree of understanding and sympathy perhaps they got very frightened maybe they were under pressure of extreme anxiety or despair those who look with love guess that there will be sorrow and regret beneath the Furious rantings or a sense of intolerable vulnerability behind the pomposity and snobbishness they intimated that early trauma and letdown must have formed the backdrop to later transgressions they will remember that the person before them was once a baby to the loving interpreter holds on to the idea that sweetness must remain beneath the surface along with a possibility of remorse and growth they are committed to mitigating circumstances to any bits of the truth that could cast a less catastrophic light on folly and nastiness the child within to consider others with love means forever remembering the child within them our wrongdoer may be fully grown but their behavior will always be connected up with their early years we overlook the need occasionally to ignore the outward adult sides of others in order to perceive and sympathise with the angry confused infant lurking inside when we were around small children who frustrate us we don't declare them evil we don't bear down on them to show how misguided they are we find less alarming ways of grasping how they've come to say or do certain things we probably think they're getting a bit tired or their gums are sore or they're upset by the arrival of a younger sibling we've got a large repertoire of alternative explanations ready in our heads this is the reverse of what tends to happen around adults here we imagine that other people have deliberately got us in their sights but if we employ the infant model of interpretation our first assumption would be quite different given how immature every adult necessarily remains some of the moves we execute with relative ease around children must forever continue to be relevant when we're dealing with another grown-up patience more realistic thinkers reach their certainties swiftly love thinkers take their time they remain serene in the face of obviously unimpressive behavior a sudden loss of temper a wild accusation a very mean remark they reach instinctively for reasonable explanations and have clearly in their minds the better moments of a currently frantic but essentially lovable person redeeming features love thinkers interpret everyone as having strengths alongside their obvious weaknesses when they encounter these weaknesses they don't conclude that this is all there is but they know that almost everything on the negative side of a ledger could be connected up with something on the positive they search a little more assiduously than is normal for the strength to which a maddening characteristic must be twinned we can see easily enough that someone is pedantic and uncompromising but we tend to forget our moments of crisis their thoroughness and honesty we may know so much about a person's messiness we forget their uncommon degree of creative enthusiasm there is no such thing as a person with only strengths but nor is there someone with only weaknesses the consolation comes in refusing to view defects in isolation love is built out of a constantly renewed and gently resigned awareness that weakness free people do not exist we are sinners to the single greatest spur towards a loving perspective on others is a live awareness that we are all so deeply imperfect and it points quite plainly mad the enemy of generosity is the sense that we might be beyond fault whereas love begins when we can acknowledge that we are in equal measures idiotic mentally wobbly and flawed it's an implicit faith in their own perfection that turns some people into such harsh judges looking at the world through the eyes of love we're forced to conclude that there is no such thing as a simply bad person and no such thing as a monster there is only ever pain anxiety and suffering that have coalesced into unfortunate action we're not just being kind in this notion this isn't merely an exercise in being nice it's an exercise in getting to know the truth of things which may when we get down to the details of human psychology be roughly an almost coincidentally the same thing to learn more about love try a book on how to find love which explains why we have the types we do and how our early experiences shape how and whom we love you