Selfishly Using Unselfish Love

When Hozier came out with his first commercial album, I listened to its 15 tracks on constant repeat. “Take Me To Church,” the melancholy song that spread like the plague, gained immediate fame with its juxtaposing stance on religion and sex, but there were additional songs that crafted the enchanting stupor of his melody. One such song was “To Be Alone”—which I’d been singing wrong for almost four years.

Despite the obvious title, I had somehow crafted a chorus that sang: It feels good, God, it feels good / It feels good, God, it feels good / It feels good, God, it feels good / Oh, to be loved by you instead of Oh, to be alone with you. Although I’d been humming this melody without knowing the actual lyrics, it turned out to be a benefit. After singing it over and over again, I realized two of humanity’s defining universal truths: People want to be loved, and they want to speak honestly to each other.

I stumbled upon this realization in conversation at Union Square Donuts: A friend and I wondered why the two of us could have such intimate conversations when it seemed like the rest of Boston College could not. We had spent three full years here and, while living situations had progressed and friendships had stabilized, the superficial conversations had remained. When we wanted our “fix” of authentic dialogue we would sneak away for a morning/afternoon/evening of conversation.

As we walked to Trader Joe’s, we continued thinking about the “why,” listing the different ways we could engage in authentic dialogue with our peers. My friend said something that correctly identified the predicament: The premise of sneaking away from campus was the problem. We both were one person on campus and another outside. The pride we had built over the past three years—dubbing ourselves rulers on top of mighty thrones, judging the actions of ourselves and the people we didn’t know—was in its very essence an act through which we tried to conform.

“You might be right but …” I began to say, trying to snag another possibility from my bag of profound thoughts.

“I am right,” she said definitively.

“Hozier has a great lyric,” I said after an awkward silence, repeating the incorrect verse to her. “People just want to be loved, and if they don’t feel loved in their environment, then they think they are doing something wrong. If they are doing something wrong, then the negative energy is certainly going to come back one way or another.”

The dialogue on BC’s campus is a bombardment of philosophic and morally superior language. While it is a necessary building block of a fulfilling life, this dialogue does not necessarily contribute to the preparation for a traditional post-grad life. It may help define a life path or change the way you look at the world, but it is not necessarily job-applicable. I am searching for a job in industries that would like kind employees but will ultimately select applicants based on technical expertise and potential. I have never been asked about authenticity, the Allegory of the Cave, or Agapic love in any interview.

If you are like me—concerned with a distinct few friends and family, dedicated to building a path that will jumpstart a limitless future, never able to find enough time in the day—I have a solution that will help minimize unnecessary expended energy and maximize personal potential: Selfishly love everybody. Love people so you can have a support system when you start down your own path. This is very different than “using someone,” because it involves a real connection and is inherently useful for both parties.

I’m not always vulnerable with other people. I rarely take the time to interrupt a trivial conversation so I can ask what another is excited about, what fears they have, where their hopes lie, and so forth. I have four papers, 65 pages of reading, work, volunteer duties, and job applications. It takes so much effort. Sometimes I just want to zone out with people at a drunken tailgate to receive a quick “love-fix,” a fleeting moment of interpersonal connection that will never quench our thirst for real meaning, and then move on with my day.

Following my reasoning: Start with the truth that “everybody wants to be loved.” If everybody wants to be loved, then they will be receptive to you when you show them love. When someone wraps their arms around you at a party and asks, for the sixth time, where you are living this year, you are loved. They may not love you like your mom loves you, but they still want to be a part of your life, even if it is in the smallest possible form.

It takes more energy to deal with the negative things in your life than it does to deal with the positive. By loving everybody, even when they do something that you do not like, it will help you understand why they are doing what they are doing. By loving everybody, you will fill voids that negative energy often fills—in yourself and the other. You can quickly find those with whom you could build a relationship, gaining another pillar that will support you in the daunting future.

When you give every person an equal, unbiased chance, they’ll be surprised: Very few people are willing to love strangers. Use this to your advantage. Love that person, not only because it would take more energy to “not like” them, but because they have something to contribute to your life.

Selfishly use love so you can achieve what you want to achieve and and do what you want to do. Build a morally conscious house with the theoretical foundation that you are paying $70,000 for. If you think that you don’t have time to deal with people because they say stupid things or because they act a certain way, then do a little experiment—show them some love and see how they change. This requires communication, but remember why you’re doing it: for yourself, because people want as much love as they can get.

Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Graphics Editor