By Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila

As we recover from the aftermath of Sendong and the recent earthquakes and aftershocks, we need to look for occasions to show our love to our family, friends and neighbors, even to those whom we do not know. How can we do this? By lending a helping hand, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on. By playing with the children, fixing a meal for the homeless, by finding ways and means to lessen another person’s or another family’s stress.

And as Valentine’s Day rolls around this coming week, we can also show others we care and are concerned for them with the simple gift of a flower or two to remind them, even just for a little bit, that there remains beauty in the world.

Roses, a traditional Valentine’s gift, are admittedly one of the most beautiful things that God ever created; they capture and show off to perfection the colors of the rainbow. The petals are baby-skin velvety soft, begging to be touched, and they fill the room with such a sensuous fragrance.

But roses also have thorns. The thorns don’t detract from the blossom’s glory; they protect the rose from predators who seek to destroy its beauty.

Roses are a sign of love and caring, even though they are surrounded with thorns, just as life is a sign of God’s love and caring, even though there are typhoons and earthquakes. The rose shows us that love has two sides: the soft side – the velvety softness of the petals, and the hard side – the thorns that tear and scratch the unwary.

Softside love is the tenderness of unconditional love that takes time to listen and understand another’s feelings, that reaches out to hug someone who is hurting. Some characteristics of soft love are patience, empathy with the other, compassion, sensitivity, willingness to lend a helping hand, and an encouraging, hopeful outlook on life.

The other side of love is the hard side. This is being able to do what’s best for the other person regardless of the cost. It’s the ability to discipline, to protect, to challenge and correct without harming the relationship. In the hardside of love, we see the strength of a person to stand up for what is right and just, the courage of a person to tell the truth, and the ability of a person to be strong enough to forgive. In life, it is the hardships, challenges and difficulties through which God tests and strengthens our faith and trust in Him.

Love should be composed of both a hardside and a softside. The hardside keeps the soft side from becoming over-emotional and unstable, while the soft side prevents the hard side from becoming stubborn and hurtful.

Roses fade and die; love should never fade or die, just as God’s love never fades or dies. We can keep love alive by balancing the two sides of love so we will be able to meet life’s challenges, and improve our relationship skills in growing stronger marriages and families, more harmonious work places, a closer relationship with God, and a sense of contentment and fulfillment in our lives. We can keep love alive in our community by reaching out, helping and caring for those affected by the storms in life. As we do this, our love becomes even stronger and healthier. And God’s love in us sustains us and gives us hope!

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