Love at the Extremes: Loving the Unlovable, Loving the Unloving

DEAR World,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is my (brief) love letter to you, to the world, or at least to those people who happen to happen upon this blog. (My longer love letter to the world for the day can be found on one of my other blogs

I have written this letter hundreds of times.  And after I finish this letter, knowing me I am sure will write it hundreds if not thousands of more times, depending on how many days and hours I have left upon this earth.

This letter (like so many letters I write) is about what I see so many of us starving for. It’s about love.

And in particular, it’s about love at the extremes.

And so it’s also a letter that touches in passing on why the world is the way it is, because it touches on why I think so many of our relationships are the way they are—because of the lack of certain aspect of real love.

Life is so short, so fragile, and so uncertain. We really know so little about the bigger questions in life—the questions that mostly frighten us (when we’re brave enough to admit it).

And so to me so much of what we seem to do here seems to miss the point. It seems to be unessential, trivial; things that in the next hour or day if we were given a terminal diagnosis we would come to consider to be “utterly valueless.”

Yet they seem to hold considerable value and importance now.  Despite ourselves most of us can’t seem to get it right; most of us can’t seem to give up the distractions and the small stuff.

And that seems to be especially apropos in our relationships and in how we love others and the level of love we expect from them.

These two loves seem to be incongruent, out of alignment. The incoming and the outgoing seem to be mismatched. We seem to expect more out of others and from others than we expect from ourselves.

And how is that loving?

We expect others to love us when we’re being unkind, difficult, mean, stingy, selfish; but we don’t seem to demand the same from ourselves when the situation is reversed.

Are we even willing to try and love like this—love another like this when he or she is being difficult, ornery, moody, distant, cold?

It seems self-evident that love—whether it be romantic, erotic, paternal, familial or even philia (friendship)—if it is to really prove itself to be love and not some cheap imitation or counterfeit, must have an aspect of loving the unlovable, loving what is unlovable and unlovely, loving the enemy or what is foreign or alien or contrary to us, in it or else our love will always falter and breakdown.

I don’t see anyway around it: the love between a husband and a wife (or between any two people in a long-term committed relationship) must have this—each must come to learn how to love the other when it is not convenient or easy, when it is difficult, when the other is being difficult, moody, bitchy, ornery, unkind, resentful. And each must be willing to learn this.

Because this seems to be an essential part—perhaps the most central and essential part—of real love: that it extends itself, that it rises to meet challenges, that it isn’t neutral, that it doesn’t just try to be not too bad but that it actually tries to stand for something good and decent, that it’s always paying attention and trying to listen and learn and understand about oneself and about the other. I don’t think real love is ever neutral: I think it’s always involved and invested and trying its best—that when we really love we’re always trying our best—or trying to try our best.

And this aspect of love seems to be non- or little-existent in so many so-called love relationships!

The going gets tough and one or both of the two people take it out on each another. Or the going gets boring and flat and comfortable, and one or both of the two people take out their unhappiness and restlessness on each other and become more petty and ungrateful.

I think when we truly love another, among the many possible things that that means, it means that we start trying sincerely to learn about what love really is, and not just what we want it to mean and what fits well with our temperament and congenital preferences.

It also means that we start applying and practicing this sort of love when its not convenient to us—when it means that we have to cut our moodiness or self-righteousness off midstream and sacrifice it for a higher purpose.

It also means that we start examining ourselves more regularly, and not just the other person, to see how loving we are being to him or her, and not just how loving he or she is being to us.

And to my mind this is by no means an easy thing to do! In fact, it is one of the most difficult things to do—to turn our outwardly fixated and focused gaze back upon ourselves and to try to look clearly and honestly at ourselves. This is perhaps THE MOST DIFFICULT thing to do in life! —To examine ourselves, to confront ourselves, to scrutinize and critique ourselves fairly and honestly, to be a more honest and objective narrator, to try to tackle and remove the massive wooden beam from our own eyes: this is something truly heroic and all too rare in our society—in any society.

And yet I think this is a huge part of the learning and practice of REAL Love.

And I wonder what this world might look like if even just a few more people were to try to love others like this, or in some way similar to this. I wonder what the world might be like, and the conversations we might have, if more people were searching themselves and bookstores and each other for answers and insights on how to be more loving or how to live now more in alignment with what will matter most to them when they find out in no uncertain terms that their time left on this earth is only a matter of months and weeks, or minutes.

How differently we might live! How different might our conversations and interactions be! How differently might we love!

What would truly matter to us then?

Should it not also matter more to us now?

Happy Valentine’s Day, in the truest and deepest sense, to you who are reading this! I hope your day is filled with much love and warmth and that you fill the world around you with as much love and gratitude and warmth as you are able!

With Much Love & Gratitude,


About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Death, Emotional Maturity, Gratitude, Intimacy, Mature Love, Mental Health, Real Love, Spiritual Growth, Waking Up, What is Love? and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Love at the Extremes: Loving the Unlovable, Loving the Unloving

  1. Absolutely love & agree with your post…nothing can be more important, nothing can make us grow, learn, teach, be fearless, etc. as love & yet it becomes very difficult to be able to truly love one another!! 🙂

    • John says:

      Hello Melissa,

      Thank you (as always) for reading and commenting. 🙂

      And I agree with your comment—nothing is important or as difficult as learning how to love better and more deeply. In part because in order to do so, we have to learn how to face ourselves, deal with ourselves, control and correct and parent ourselves—all of which are also incredibly difficult as well!

      To love is difficult, as is developing those other concomitant capacities and traits that will allow us to better and more truly Love.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting, Melissa. I hope you and yours are well. Warmest regards,


  2. granbee says:

    John, deepest gratitude for your decision to start following my blog! I post there many sections from my allegorical adult fairytale series about critterlyfolk who are quite unlovely, formerly seldom loving, but who were transformed in the flash of glance from the Babe in the stable. They answered “the look” and are now lovingly helping each other on a stumbling but constant journey into the One True Light. I was more than thrilled to find this Valentine’s Day post about loving the unloveable. This is what our Creator does for us and yearns always for us to do with each other. Bless you, dear John.

    • John says:

      Bless you as well, and thank you for reading and for commenting! And I agree, loving God, trying to better get out of our own way and let in the love of God, and trying to learn how to better love others and ourselves, seems to be essence of what we’re called to do here in life. In light of that, the rest just doesn’t seem that important or valuable!

      Thanks again for your comment, and for reading! Warmest regards,


  3. danielle says:

    i second that!! bless you, John!. i read your blogs and it’s like coming home and slipping into to a warm bath.. such wisdom and light in your posts!! i love your vision!! i hope your valentines day was full of love!. you deserve it!!

    • John says:

      Ah Danielle . . . Thank you as always for your very lovely and warm comment (I’m blushing, lol 🙂 ). And thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. I am glad something in my words and thoughts speaks to you.

      My Valentine’s Day was very, very nice and filled with much love, Danielle. My ex- and I reunited about a month ago, and we are back to living the dream 🙂

      How was your Valentine’s Day?

      Warmest regards as always,


  4. mbwilliams says:

    Brilliant post! It is only through constant discipline and introspection that we can even hope to become the better people the world needs. Still with blogs like this there is a way; one small step at a time.

    • John says:

      Hello Mark,

      Thank you for stopping by and thank you for the very, very kind comment.

      And, yes, definitely one small step at a time. What would this world be like if more people blogged their deepest and highest thoughts and aspirations; in more people blogged about what they thought it meant to be the best person they could be!? It would start a rEVOLution!!

      There’s just no neutrality in regards to which way we are moving in regards to our own personal development or lack thereof; at any and every moment, we are moving in one direction or the other—either becoming better people or worse people; more disciplined and focused and mindful and aware, or less of each of these; we’re either living from what’s best in us or from what’s worst and weakest in us.

      We are constantly practicing, so it would behoove us all to become better aware (or at least to try and become better aware) of what exactly it is that we’re practicing and getting better at; what exactly it is that we’re actually doing to ourselves (and thereby to others) and making ourselves into!

      Thanks again for reading, Mark, and for taking the time to comment!

      Kindest regards,


  5. I truly enjoyed reading your thoughts on love. You have a great vision and wonderful aspirations, and your words carry an urgency and a call to action, a call to a higher purpose….bravo on this paper, you wrote it well, and I have been inspired. One important thing I have learned on my own journey, is that I was made by love, and have been loved from the beginning. That gives me the confidence I need to continue to reach ever higher.
    May your message travel far, and continue to bless and inspire us all. Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful heartfelt thoughts of love.
    Much peace and many blessings to you,

    • John says:

      Hello Celeste,

      Thank you for reading and commenting and for the very, very kind words, AND for being inspired! And I hope you will continue stopping by and commenting!

      Warmest regards,


  6. Pingback: Time To Live « Haiku 365

  7. janeadamsart says:

    Thank you John, for this wonderful post.

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