This is what love always does. It turns a person around so that he sees things in a dif ferent light, faces life in a different way. It puts a new spirit in him; it gradually neutralizes or drives out of the nature all selfishness, all greed, all unkindness, all uncharitableness.
Love is the most potent influence in life. It is infinitely more powerful than the gambling instinct, than the lust instinct, than the greedy, grasping instinct. It neutralizes all the baser passions and instincts. It touches the God in man. It is the divine leaven of love which uplifts and ennobles the whole nature.
Who has not seen the magic power of love in transforming brutal, dissolute men into refined and devoted husbands? I have known women who had such great, loving, helpful hearts, and such charm of manner, that the worst men, the most hardened characters would do anything in the world for them - would give up their lives even to protect them. These men could not be touched by unkindness or compulsion. Love was the only power that could reach them.
"To love, and to be loved," said Sydney Smith, "is the greatest happiness of existence." Every one, rich and poor, high and low, is reaching out for love. What will not a man do to win the love of one who embodies his ideal of womanhood; one in whom he sees all the beautiful qualities that he himself lacks! This love is really a divine hunger, the longing for possession of what will make him a whole man instead of the half one he feels he is.
Why is it that when a coarse-grained, brutal, dissipated man falls in love with a sweet, pure girl he immediately changes his ways, looks up, thinks up, braces up, drops his profanity, is more refined, more choice in his language, more exclusive in his associations, and is, to all appearances, for the time at least, a changed man? Simply because love is a more powerful motive to the man than dissipation. He drops the latter, and if his love is steady and true he will never again indulge in any degrading practice.
One of the most brutal human beings I ever saw, fallen as low as a human being possibly could, was an illiterate man who, though still young, had spent years in prison for different offenses, fell in love with a beautiful young woman, a school teacher, to whom he told his story. She became interested in him from the first and began to teach him to read. Closer association with the man showed her his possibilities and latent good qualities, and gradually she grew to love him.
Then the leaven of love began to work in the man's nature. His coarse, vulgar manners immediately softened. He showed more refinement in speech and manner. The fearful profanity in which he used to indulge dropped from him little by little. He was seen less and less in saloons and dives. He began to clean up and to dress up. He took more interest in his work and for the first time in his life began to save money. Finally the school teacher married him and his transformation was completed. He was a devoted husband and became an able and useful citizen.
I recall another instance of the redeeming power of love somewhat similar to this. A very pessimistic, ill-dispositioned man fell desperately in love with a sweet young girl, who in spite of his repellent qualities loved him and believed she could see the making of a man in him. With all of his other bad qualities, he was subject to frightful fits of the blues, which would last him for days. While in their grip he would suffer terribly, believing that there was nothing in life worth living for.
The girl married him and soon experienced the evil effects of his harsh, gloomy nature. But she was not discouraged and began the experiment of laughing him out of his blues, and in all sorts of ways trying to change the tenor of his thoughts. She was a student of the New Thought philosophy of life, and was always bright, cheerful, and hopeful. She was constantly telling her husband that happiness was his birthright, that being God's child he was not made to express any unfortunate qualities, and that the divine in him could and should dominate the human, the animal. She reminded him that his Maker was his partner, that consequently he was in touch with the Infinite Source of all things, and that all that was beautiful and true, all that was desirable in the universe, all the good things, were his if he would only claim them by developing his God consciousness.
The young wife never ceased in her efforts, always using love's way in whatever she tried to do for her husband. Where he had previously used the opposite, she persuaded him to substitute love's way. She showed him that love was the cure, the healing balm for all his weaknesses, all his unhappiness, all his difficulties, and all his unfortunate qualities.
It may have been a dangerous experiment for the girl, but the results were magical. After a few months of the love treatment this man became so changed in disposition, in personal appearance, in manner, in habits, in his conversation and life generally, that his old friends and acquaintances scarcely knew him. His nature had unfolded just as a plant unfolds when taken out of an inhospitable environment and placed in a warm, congenial atmosphere. The man's new environment, the sun of his wife's love, had nourished his nature and brought out the possible divine man. Before his marriage he had merely been expressing his lower self, his brute nature. But now his life has blossomed into beauty; he has become a strong, splendid man. He is expressing his higher, his real, self.
Love always finds the God in us, because it refuses to see anything else. Where there is apparently only a weakling or a coward, love sees a hero. It sees the good citizen, the good husband, the good father in the meanest hobo, in the most degenerate beggar that crawls in his rags. Love sees only the ideal man or woman, the being made in his Creator's image, which persists in every one of us no matter how low we may have fallen.
The loving mother does not see the criminal in her son. No matter what his faults or blemishes, she looks beyond them to the divine ideal. She sees an ideal man. She sees him as God sees him, not as society sees him, not as the judge on the bench sees him.
How often we hear the expression: "How that mother can see any good in that ugly brat of hers is more than I can understand." But the mother does see something beautiful in that "ugly brat"; she sees great possibilities in her boy, where others see none. She sees him in the years ahead a good husband, a good father, a good citizen. The fond mother does not see her homely or defective child as other people see it. She sees her boy growing into a splendid man with all his possibilities unfolded and given expression. She does not see her crippled girl as other people see her. She looks beyond the physical deformity, and sees the soul, the reality of the child, the truth of its being. She sees the superb woman in possibility, and makes all sorts of sacrifices so that her loved ones shall develop into the men and women God meant them to be.
The wife, who is faithful in spite of many disillusions and disappointments, does not see in the man she loves the dishonest, brutal, lustful husband. She sees only her ideal of manhood, the possibilities that still are his. The husband does not see in the woman he married the nagging, gossiping, mischief-making wife; he sees only his ideal of womanhood; he sees what love sees, only the good, only the pure, only the true, only the ideal girl he first loved.
Love sees no evil, thinks no evil, knows no evil. It sees, thinks, knows only the good, the pure, the clean, the true. Love goes through the world radiating sunshine and gladness, purifying the atmosphere everywhere, never seeing the bad in human beings because it is too much occupied in looking for the good.
It is difficult to imagine what would become of the race if love did not see the ideal, the perfect man, the man God intended instead of the burlesque man, the weak, deficient being that hatred and all forms of error have made him appear.
Browning said, "Love is energy of life." Love certainly is the greatest energy we know anything about. It is love that moves the world. No other human agency has been half so powerful for good. No other can lift man to the divine.