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Do it from love not for love

For a while now I’ve been noodling over a little piece of advice that I found on Instagram:

Do it from love, not for love.

The idea feels huge to me. Like freedom and generosity and happiness and wisdom all rolled up into one well-crafted little sentence.

What does doing something from love look like? To me, it means all the little kindnesses that just kind of well up out of us.

Picking up a bit of trash along your morning walk.
Folding your grown child’s laundry that you discover in the dryer.
Filling up the car so your partner doesn’t have to.
Agreeing to stop by to let a friend’s dog out.
Straightening a pot of flowers that has blown over in the cemetery.
Listening. Just listening.

The key, to me, is that we do these things freely – with absolutely no expectation of thanks or, for that matter, anything at all in return. This means being completely fine with no thank you note – not even a text! (I know this may sound like rank profanity to my fellow Southerners!) As nice as they are to receive, a thank you note is essentially an affirmation that your gift – and therefore you – are loved.

We can do things from love for people we love, for people we like, and for people we don’t know and will probably never know. We can even do things from love for people we don’t like. The love that inspires these gestures is not between us and the other. It comes from deep within our own being.

Where does this love that inspires such free and generous gestures come from? In my own spirituality, it comes from the belief that each of us is made in the image of a God who is Love. If that is so, then you and I are also filled with love. In fact, we’re not just filled with love, we are filled to overflowing, so there is no need to be stingy. We can pour love out into the world as liberally as we are able, confident that it will never run dry.

Henri Nouwen says it beautifully:

God loved me before I was born
and will love me after I die.
Life is just a little opportunity for me
during a few years, to say,
“I love you, too.”

I imagine that when we’re “doing it from love,” we are a little like kindness fairies sprinkling light and love around the world. The good news is that the sparkle we add to someone else’s day is like glitter – it gets everywhere – so we will end up feeling a little sparkly too.

One way that I try to spread the love is through this blog. Did you know there are years and years of old essays in the archives? And that they are searchable? If you have a minute, feel free to explore!