From the Cradle to the Grave, Our Greatest Need Is Love
Love is our greatest need. Babies die without it. The elderly waste away for lack of it. Illness flourishes in its absence. Books are written about it. Groups assemble to touch and hug in search of it. Movies and plays distort and degrade it. Those having sex call it “making love” and show their ignorance of it. A corrupt and violent world rejects as impractical the only kind of love that could save it. Yet that saving love is our greatest need.
AT A business seminar on human relationships, the speaker told of a hospital ward filled with orphaned babies. In a long row of beds, the babies became ill and some of them died—except the baby in the last bed. It did well. The doctor was puzzled. All were fed, bathed, kept warm—no difference in their care. Yet only the baby in the last bed thrived. As months passed and new babies were brought in, the story was always the same: Only the baby in the last bed did well.
Finally the doctor concealed himself to watch. At midnight the cleaning woman came in and on hands and knees scrubbed the floor, from one end to the other. The floor finished, she stood up, stretched, rubbed her back. Then she went to the last bed, picked up the baby, walked around the room with it, cuddling it, talking to it, rocking it in her arms. She put it back in its bed and left. The doctor watched the next night, and the next. Each night the same thing happened. It was always the baby in the last bed that got picked up, cuddled, talked to, and loved. And in all the new groups of babies brought in, it was always the baby in the last bed that thrived, while the others got sick and some died.
Psychology Today said that “during formative periods of brain growth, certain kinds of sensory deprivation—such as a lack of touching and rocking by the mother—result in incomplete or damaged development of the neuronal systems that control affection.” The baby learns love from a loving mother. Within minutes after birth, there is a bonding between mother and baby. Thereafter, loving exchanges nourish the attachment between them, as the book Making Your Family Life Happy shows on page 101:*
“A mother bends over a baby in its bed, puts her hand on its chest and jiggles it gently as she puts her face close to the baby’s and says, ‘I see you! I see you!’ The baby, of course, doesn’t know the words (which really aren’t particularly logical anyway). But it wriggles and coos with delight, for it recognizes that the playful hand and the tone of voice are clearly saying to it, ‘I love you! I love you!’ It is reassured and feels secure. Babies and small children who are shown love appreciate it, and, in imitation of that love, they practice it, putting small arms around the mother’s neck and giving enthusiastic kisses. They are pleased with the heartwarming emotional response they reap from their mother as a result. They begin to learn the vital lesson that there is happiness in giving love as well as in receiving it, that by sowing love they reap it in return.—Acts 20:35; Luke 6:38.”
Over the years, babies’ need for love has been established by many studies. The Scientific American magazine published this report: “René Spitz of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and his colleague Katherine Wolf, took histories of 91 foundling-home infants in the eastern U.S. and Canada. They found that the infants consistently showed evidence of anxiety and sadness. Their physical development was retarded and they failed to gain weight normally or even lost weight. Periods of protracted insomnia alternated with periods of stupor. Of the 91, Spitz and Wolf reported, 34 died ‘in spite of good food and meticulous medical care.’”
A Florida psychiatrist said: “A child who does not get enough hugging or cuddling may grow up to be withdrawn, detached or aloof. . . . Physical body contact between parent and child is so essential in child rearing that in some cases children who were not hugged or cuddled during the first year of their lives did not survive.”
A report concerning the findings of Dr. James Prescott of the National Institute of Health stated: “From the moment of birth, many Americans are deprived of something that could prevent them from becoming criminals, mentally ill or violent adults. That something is touching and physical affection—a kind of ‘sensory pleasure’ that humans need as much as they need food.” Psychology Today concurs. On the baby’s need for touching and rocking, it said: “Since the same systems influence brain centers associated with violence, . . . the deprived infant may have difficulty controlling violent impulses as an adult.”
The Journal of Lifetime Living once said: “The psychiatrists, in their lurid battle against mental illness, have finally concluded that the great taproot of mental ills is lovelessness. The child psychologists, wrangling over scheduled versus demand feeding, spanking versus non-spanking, have found that none of it makes much difference so long as the child is loved. The sociologists have found love the answer to delinquency, the criminologists have found it the answer to crime, the political scientists have found it the answer to war.”
They may have found the answer, but they obviously have not applied it. Dr. Claude A. Frazier warned that if our technological society is not humanized by love, “the alternative, as we can now surely comprehend, is a nation of cities turned into jungles of hate, of families rent by bitter conflict, of young people seeking escape in drugs and death, and of a world ready to commit global suicide at any moment.”
Frazier also said: “As a physician, I find that a significant number of patients I see daily are suffering from illnesses influenced at least in part by this emotional famine. . . . The illnesses usually mentioned in this context are such things as headaches, back problems, ulcers, heart disease. However, some medical researchers are widening the list to include such grim maladies as cancer.”
Just as caring human relationships and love are beneficial to our health, the lack of companionship can be detrimental. The pressures of modern living, broken homes, single-parent families, emotionally neglected children, the mania for material things, the collapse of morals, the demise of true values—all add to the instability and loneliness that damage our health. James J. Lynch pursues this at length in his book The Broken Heart—The Medical Consequences of Loneliness. “The price we are paying for our failure to understand our biological needs for love and human companionship,” he says, “may be ultimately exacted in our own hearts and blood vessels. . . . There is reflected in our hearts a biological basis for our need for loving human relationships, which we fail to fulfill at our peril.”
Serum cholesterol is linked not only to diet but also to emotional stress. It can also increase blood pressure. Cardiovascular disease is the cause of 55 percent of all deaths in the United States, and it takes a heavier toll of those who are alone. Lynch states: “The mortality statistics for heart disease among those adult Americans who are not married are striking—a death rate from heart disease that is as much as two to five times higher for nonmarried individuals, including those who are divorced, widowed, or single, than for married Americans.” Recent scientific studies indicate that loneliness can impair the body’s immune system, making it more vulnerable to disease. Loneliness is hazardous to your health. Even Adam felt a lack in a paradise garden. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone and gave him Eve.—Genesis 2:18, 20-23.
If we were isolated in darkness and in a soundless environment, we would become mentally disoriented. We need input from our senses to keep our senses. Being gregarious by nature, we need input from other people. We need companionship even if there is no talking. We need an interchange of feelings. Comforting words are good, but talk empty of feeling does not dispel loneliness. There can be communication on a deeper level than is possible with words.
Such is the case of the woman who anxiously scans the face of her husband when he is disturbed and transmits to him a healing force from within herself. Or the case of the 75-year-old man in an intensive-care unit who knew he was going to die and who had only one simple request—that his wife of 48 years stay by his side. Which she did, all the while gently stroking his hand, communicating a quiet peacefulness to him beyond the power of words. Or on an even deeper level, the nurse who by gently holding the hand of a man who is in a deep coma and breathing on a machine slows the racing heart and lowers the blood pressure, making one appreciate the power of the human touch.
“You must love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus said, quoting from the Mosaic Law. (Mark 12:31; Leviticus 19:18) This does not mean self-adulation or self-centeredness. Rather, acknowledging mistakes, repenting, asking for forgiveness, trying to do better—this approach allows us to respect ourselves and gain God’s forgiveness. “Remembering that we are dust,” he mercifully forgives, and his forgiveness eases guilt feelings that we otherwise would project upon others, spoiling our relationships with them. (Psalm 103:14; 1 John 1:9) So in this way we can accept ourselves, love ourselves, and then love others as we do ourselves. Love yourself without demanding perfection of yourself; love others without demanding perfection of them.
This kind of love is best defined by what it does and does not do: “Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
Do you want to be loved in this marvelous way? Then sow it to reap it. Exercise it as you would a muscle. Make it grow, increase, until it fills you, becomes you. Then prove it’s alive by loving works. “Practice giving,” Jesus said, “and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.” (Luke 6:38) By giving you inspire others to become givers, and all share the joy. As Jesus also said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) The greatest form of giving is giving of yourself—your time, your attention, your sympathy, your understanding. You “treat others as you would like them to treat you.” (Matthew 7:12, The New English Bible) Communicate. Share their feelings, their joys, even their tears. And above all else, give yourself to God.—Psalm 40:7, 8; Hebrews 10:8, 9.
The Bible says that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Many object, ‘If God is love, why does he permit wickedness?’ It is his purpose to end all wickedness, but he delays because of his love for us: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) In his mercy he now permits wickedness, that repentant ones may cease doing it and live. (Ezekiel 33:14-16) But in his due time he will end wickedness by destroying those who persist in it. He will end war by ending warmongers, end crime by ending criminals, end pollution by ending polluters, end gross immorality, rape, incest, and perversion by ending those who insist on practicing them. All wickedness will end when God ends all workers of wickedness. In so doing he shows love to those who want to live in peace and righteousness. (Psalm 37:10, 11; Proverbs 2:21, 22) As any gardener knows, weeds must go before flowers can flourish.
Because God is love, he created the earth and put man upon it and made its bounties available for all, both good and bad: “He makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) Because God is love, he will end sickness and death. Already he has provided a means of salvation for all mankind: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Because God is love, he “recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Multitudes berate God for permitting wickedness even as they enjoy committing it, but those grateful for his love respond differently: “We love, because he first loved us.”—1 John 4:19.
In this world, there is a shortage of love for God and there is a shortage of love for neighbor, but there is no shortage of God’s love for man. And it is his love for us that is our greatest need.
Published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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“By sowing love they reap it”
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“The great taproot of mental ills is lovelessness”
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We need input from our senses to keep our senses
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Share their feelings, their joys, even their tears