We have teachers for all sciences or almost all sciences. But the science of love isn't taught... It grows with the intelligence of the heart. Instinct stirs us to respond positively, from that tender moments of birth onwards, to the maternal affections to which we are lavished. Where there are signs of this affection, the heart opens like petals to the warming rays of the sun... it comes to bloom. That is how the first instinct of love looks like, it is even more beautiful than that, the cuddles, the sweet kisses on the forehead, the tossing of the fragile baby into the air. They stir something within, something the heart alone knows.
When we grow up, we discover that the love we received was not a fulfillment in itself but a promise, a seed that needs nourishing and growth. We understand that the center of the world isn't the child we once were, demanding of attention and affectionate lavishing. The truth becomes different. Love presents itself with another visage, it is no longer we who matter, but the object of the love we bear in our hearts.
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Says Christ of the Gospels.
What comes foremost isn't the neighbor. It is me. Unless I love myself, unless I start treasuring who I am, I will always love everyone in the wrong way. And that is how it often has been with many relationships.
The sad thing is that some people do not even know how to love themselves. And I do not mean a petty self-love that centers on what I desire. Loving one's self is gaining the fuller awareness of who we are meant to be. Henri Nouven uses the word beloved to point to the fact that we are created by a Source of love and loved infinitely. Such an awareness calls us to claim this blessedness always and to rejoice in it.
To be human is a great gift. To nourish one's humanity is greater. To grow in his/her humanity is the greatest act of love towards oneself. It is the only way of learning to love others. For once we have discovered the value of what and who we are we will be able to offer the best of who and what we are.