What does “love” mean?

What does love mean? I can look up the dictionary definition, and I have. And I have looked up the definition to all the words mentioned in that definition, words such as affection and caring, and kindness. And their definitions lead to more words like benevolent, helpful, and tracking through many of those definitions becomes circular, leading back to love. And I have tried to see in my life what exactly love means… It is of particular interest to me, having begun my life being told that I was not loved, and would never be loved. So I admittedly have looked for love in the world, have quite honestly wrapped my world around love. As I have grown and exposed my heart more, I have heard the word used often, including – happily – to refer to me. I think “I love you” is the nicest thing I have ever heard. But still I wonder what it means… There are a set of behaviors I have associated with love, behaviors I see between other people I think of as loving. Are those behaviors what love entails? Is love the warmth and closeness I’ve always longed for? Is love what’s shown by hugging, and kisses, and the warmth of dog tongues? Or does love go back to caring and support and kindness, and does one by definition love everyone they are kind to – or necessarily are they kind to everyone they love? One would think that true… But I must admit that the more time I spend getting to know humans more deeply – beyond the superficial “admiring from afar” that I have done most of my life, the more confused I am as to what love really means to them. I know what it means to me… I know that my heart is committed to wishing for and wanting and praying for, and working toward – when I can – the wellbeing of those I love. I am often stymied in understanding in what ways I can express that love, in what ways I can help people – so many already surrounded by others, family, friends, who have a much closer bond than it seems I can ever hope for. But my love is not limited by those bonds it might hope to form. My heart loves who it loves, regardless of how hopeless that love may be. But I hear the word love used in the absence of the behaviors I would associate with it. I hear the word love used so freely, and I cannot help but wonder if it in fact has meaning when it is used that way. Does it? Does one love a room full of people? Does one “love everybody”? Or perhaps that is only indicative of the ability to love if given opportunity? So what does it in fact mean when someone says they love someone? What can I understand by being told I am loved?

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