February is weird. What are all the pink stuffed animals crowding up multiple aisles in the grocery store? Why are their heart-shaped chocolates everywhere? And why is it all so expensive? Oh, that’s right… it’s the month of ‘love.’
Am I the only one whose fight or flight kicks in every time Valentine’s Day comes around and society decides to begin another competition of who can sell the biggest teddy bear? It’s as though we’re in an alternate reality. A reality where pink is the new black, love is quantifiable and it’s embarrassing to be ‘alone’. This ‘celebration’ of love has always felt a bit lackluster to me. Lately, however, I find myself singing a different tune.
Even while bombarded by all things pink, I have an unusually cheery disposition this February. I’ll admit, it could be because I’m in a relationship. Though, I really believe my new outlook is thanks to the realization, after such a hard year, that love is absolutely necessary for human survival.
“I have decided to stick to love; hate is too great a burden to bear.”
-Martin Luther King
When I say “love,” I’m not talking about the grand gestures, long walks on the beach, and butterflies—though these are all great aspects of love. I’m referring to a love that is self-sacrificing, that chooses to stay during the nitty-gritty, day-to-day difficulties. This is the love that mends the brokenhearted, restores hope, and brings reconciliation. It is this kind of love that is worth celebrating on Valentine’s Day.
Saint Valentine, or rather the numerous martyrs the name represents, is the embodiment of this true love. ‘Valentine,’ historically, is the name associated with multiple individuals’ stories of sacrifice for their belief in and love for God. Two Valentines in history were executed on February 14 (of different years) for their rejection of the Roman Empire and their faith. These men endured suffering and persecution yet loved even their jailers enough to heal their family members. In one telling of the story, Saint Valentine closed a letter to the woman he loved writing “Your Valentine,” before sent to his death—hence, our modern tradition.
Reading the various Saint Valentine stories reveals the kind of love the world needs right now. The world needs a love that knows no enemy. A love that turns its cheek, offers its hand and, most importantly, brings people together. How many lives would change if we all decided to throw off our burdens of hate and use that same energy to seek after each unbridled act of love available to us? That’s a Valentine’s Day vow I can certainly get behind.
I hope this Valentine’s Day is filled with plenty of adoring trinkets, sweet-worded cards, and lots of chocolate. But I also pray that it overflows with love that brings selfless acts of kindness, gestures of loyalty, and moments of forgiveness that continue through the year. Let’s live a life so filled with love that every day is Valentine’s Day.