What is the law of love? I believe the law of love is the truth that what I give another I also give to myself. This agrees with the commonplace observation that giving benefits the giver. Yet the law of love far exceeds that common idea, in two crucial ways.
First, it makes the connection between giving and receiving a lawful one. We tend to hope that giving will benefit the giver, because we have often observed that to be true. Yet if this is a law, then hoping my giving will benefit me is like hoping that a rock I throw in the air will come back down to earth. We don’t hope that a law of nature will still work the next time; we assume it as a matter of course.
Second, it means that this law is operating in regard to everything we do. When I give my brother love, that is my gift to me. When I give him attack, that is my gift to me. When I ignore him and act like he doesn’t exist, that, too, is my gift to me. Just as gravity operates on all objects, regardless of size, shape, or mass, so the law of love operates on all interpersonal acts, regardless of their quality.
The fact that the law of love is a law that operates all the time, without exceptions, makes it quite distant from that commonplace observation that giving benefits the giver. For we hear that and then turn around and think, “Then I guess my occasional gifts will probably—hopefully—make me happier.” Rather, we should be thinking, “Everything I give will return to me as lawfully as objects thrown upward return to the ground. Therefore, the way to find happiness is to continually throw love ‘upward’ to others, so that by God’s gravity it constantly falls back down on me. I want love to shower down on me. I don’t want rotting garbage to splat down on my face.”
One way to think of this is in terms of our personal treasure house. A treasure house, of course, is a house where treasure is stored. I doubt, however, that any of us have a literal building in which we store literal treasure. Yet we may still have our own kind of treasure house. Maybe it’s our office, with our degrees, awards, certificates, and photos with important people on the wall. Maybe it’s our personal library, our collection of treasured books. Maybe it’s our actual house, which we have spent years carefully decorating and filling with mementos. Quite obviously, it may be our bank account. Or maybe it’s more intangible. Perhaps it’s a collection of cherished memories. Perhaps it’s a stockpile of future fantasies. Please take a moment and ask yourself honesty, “What is my treasure house?” The problem with this treasure house is that, in all but rare cases, it’s all about us. It’s my stuff, which in turn makes a statement about me. But is that really a problem? Isn’t that, rather, the essence of happiness? Isn’t that what makes our storehouse so precious to us?
Think about your treasure house and see if it’s not all about you. For instance, if you imagine it being co-owned by you and many others, doesn’t its value diminish in your eyes? Also, ask yourself which would make you happier: That lots of people were deeply impressed by your treasure house, and heaped accolades on you for it, or that lots of people were genuinely blessed and helped by it, without ever knowing it was you who helped them?
Let’s face it, most treasure houses are seen as valuable because we own them and because they make a statement about us. They are temples to our separate self. That’s what makes them seem so wonderful and what makes us so obsessed with them. And yet that is precisely what makes them empty. Can you see the truth in this with regard to your treasure house? Has it truly filled you up, so that your fullness makes you constantly at rest within and constantly radiating joy without? Or has it left you empty, hungry, grasping, desperate for that next morsel, and wondering where the one after that will come from?
If the latter, then how valuable can your treasure be? Maybe it’s not really treasure at all. Imagine, then, approaching your treasure house, well-tended and securely locked, and opening the door. Now imagine looking inside and for the first time seeing the worthlessness of what is there. Realize you stored there some shiny pebbles that you thought were real gold, along with a pile of snow you thought was real silver. Thus, where you thought you had hoarded silver and gold, you see now that all you have are some wet pebbles. Your treasure house is actually a house of illusions. In truth, it is just empty space. And all the satisfaction you think you derive from it is just as empty.
This is actually predicted by the law of love. For this treasure house is a case of non-giving. Rather than giving, it’s a case of saving, trying to save what you desired for yourself alone. To use my earlier metaphor, nothing was thrown up into the air, and so, naturally, nothing came back. This may seem to leave you poor indeed, but, thankfully, this is not your real treasure house. You have another one, and it does contain real treasure. What is that real treasure? It is the gifts your brothers have given you in response to the love you have given them. This love is also a gift of forgiveness, for love, to be itself, must brush aside all those things that would diminish it. It must overlook as unimportant all that would say that it shouldn’t love. And that brushing aside so that love can be itself, that overlooking, is forgiveness.
This treasure house is not so well-tended, is it? Yet it contains the real treasure in your life. It contains the love from others that was the natural response to the love you gave. In many cases, you hardly noticed you were giving love. Likewise, in many cases, you hardly noticed the love that was given back. Yet in other cases, that love was one of the most precious experiences you ever had, and you have kept it tucked away in a sacred drawer in your mind, a drawer you occasionally open so you can have another glimpse of that treasured moment of sublime love.
That drawer is your real treasure house. There is so much more in that drawer than you realize. For despite all your egotism and self-centeredness, your brothers have been making trips there, often unnoticed by you, to deposit the love they are returning to you. Not only is the number of treasures there greater than you realize, but the value of those treasures is greater as well. These are gifts more valuable than anything on this earth. They are more precious than money, or awards, or furniture, or anything else this world has to offer. They are the real gold and silver. They are as real as the other treasures were illusory. For they are Heaven’s treasures, which in the end are all truly lasts.
Just as the first treasure house was a case of the law of love at work—nothing was given and so nothing returned—so this second treasure house is a working of that same law. Only here, it is working in your favor: Love was thrown “upward” to your brothers, and so love landed back down on you.
And now you have a choice: Which treasure house do you want to tend? Which one do you want to spend your time filling? Which one do you want to open up and gaze on with joy? Which one do you want as your emotional anchor, the thing you gain strength and comfort from, just knowing it is there?
These questions come down to one simple question: Which treasure house really makes you happier? Really?
You can’t afford to make the wrong choice here. The stakes are too high. We are talking about your happiness. We are talking about the most important issue in your life. You can’t afford to make a lazy choice here, a choice that will feel comfortable but will just perpetuate your unhappiness. Therefore, because your happiness matters, because you matter, make the conscious choice, the wise choice, the choice that actually makes sense despite what all your habit-patterns are screaming at you. Which treasure house really makes you happier?
If you decide the second one does, then make today a day of cementing that choice in place. Make it a day in which, at long last, you learn the law of love.
Robert Perry is a teacher of the contemporary spiritual path A Course in Miracles. His writings can be found at www.circleofa.org. This article was inspired by Lesson 344 in the Workbook of A Course in Miracles.