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Our Definition of Love and Unlimited Love

What Is Love?

When the happiness, security, and well-being of another feels as meaningful and real to you as your own, or perhaps more so, you love that person. This seems to work for the young couple looking over the crib of their sleeping newborn. It works for old friends sharing a moment of mirthful reminiscence and companionship. It works for the empathic nurse who has a feeling for the suffering of her patient. It works for the social activist who cannot rest until the basic “needs of the neediest” are met. This definition does not rely on any single religious or cultural tradition. Love may be easier to understand if it is viewed like the hub of a wheel with spokes that extend outward in modulations, depending upon the needs of the recipient:

This model is the focus of our best-selling book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving, which brought together (with the help of writer Jill Neimark) uplifting stories, science, perennial wisdom, and a self-assessment scale. Why Good Things Happen has been translated into fifteen languages, and is still read and discussed around the world. It engages all the strengths of positive psychology as manifestations of love.

What Is Pure Unlimited Love?

This is God’s love, which is the same love as defined above, but it is expressed for all human beings, nonhuman species, and nature as a whole. This elevated love is perfectly extensive or all-inclusive; it has no myopic nearsightedness. It is perfectly wise and effective; it is pure without a trace of manipulation or self-interest; it is enduring and constant, rather than turning on and off like a flickering bulb; it is bright rather than dull. It also underlies all of reality, so the mystics and some physicists. In essence, pure love = oneness with “God.”

Are human beings who are separate from spiritual oneness with the One Mind capable of pure unlimited love? Science tells us that the answer is No. Pure unlimited love goes well beyond the human physical-material substrate, and is involved in a oneness with the eternal Mind that lies deeply within us all. Such perfect love is far beyond human nature. However, we can connect with and participate in Pure Unlimited Love through spiritual practice and experience. This was the foundation of one national project, which included a research team of several dozen leading sociologists and religious scholars over a five-year period. The results were published by co-authors Matthew T. Lee, Margaret M. Poloma, and Stephen G. Post: The Heart of Religion: Spiritual Empowerment, Benevolence, and the Experience of God’s Love. Oxford University Press, 2013). Such experiences are a source of Inner Peace and also expand compassion and benevolent actions.

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