by Chukwukwe Eugenia Adaku
I’ve often heard that we, as humans, should love everyone and everything freely—that everyone is deserving of love, that you should care for everyone with equal measure. The key to fulfillment, one might argue, is to bare your heart to everyone at every opportunity.
Love, to me, means caring for someone in excess: having affection, devotion, interest, loyalty that goes beyond simple explanation. To be in love with someone takes this definition to transcendence, multiplying it exponentially and infinitely. And that’s why I can’t, and won’t, love everyone.
It’s why not everyone deserves my love. It’s why I feel love for such a small and concentrated number of people. It’s why it takes so long, so, so long and requires so much trust and investment for me to love someone. Because I love fully, I immerse myself and pour myself into my love and those I give it to—I love to excess, I love to heartache and heartbreak and right on through it, I love to greater heights than euphoria and beyond greater depths than crushing despair. When—or rather, if—I say “I love you,” it carries an unspoken promise and avowal: I will always love you, without exception or reduction. It means that I have realized that no pain—physical or emotional—inflicted could possibly hurt more than the possibility of having you fade or disappear from my life. It means that I would rather shoulder any burden, any turmoil, than to see you experiencing and suffering it, and that will remain an immutable fact until my last breath and beyond, if indeed there is one. And that’s why I can’t, and won’t, love everyone. What people mistake for “love” and loving everyone they encounter I call magnanimity.” That’s why I take fault with the idea of “love everyone openly, fully, and equally”—not because
the sentiment is misplaced, but because the direction is erroneous. I can, and do, have magnimity for everyone I
encounter. Even people I hate (and there are indeed people I hate), I can exhibit compassion and show respect. I can acknowledge the rights inherent to everyone and everything, I can show empathy and understanding to those who have even done damage to themselves and others. But I can’t, and won’t, love them.
So if you, or I, or anyone ever says “I love you,” mean it with the endurance of eternity and every unspoken promise that is truly meant to come with it. Understand the gravity of love, understand why you are meant to reserve it for those who truly deserve it.
Please—do not attempt to love everyone, but demonstrate empathy and magnanimity hesitation. And if I’ve ever said “I love you,” know that I meant it then, mean it now, and will mean it later with the same honesty and feeling. That is a pledge, not simply an ideal.