| By Tola Adeniyi |
THE word love as it is used by the so-called lovers is most intricate and intriguing. A word that is full of many definitions, meanings and applications. It is a word that has engaged the thoughts of philosophers, the clinical analysis of psychologists and the preoccupation of many creative bards. The word is alluring and very romantic. But what does it mean?
I will probably not go that route as we talk of loving, giving and caring. Love to me is a so much abused word with a result that I can safely say I am not sure what it means. But I know what it connotes. I know the obvious signs of the word, and I can recognise the practical, tangible part of its expression. The bit I am not sure about is when people glibly say ‘I love you’.
There is the affection of a father or mother to a child. I know and recognise the love grandparents have towards their grandchildren. I know how much I dote on mine, and how much of my thoughts they occupy. That is the loving that I feel comfortable to speak about. But the love a man professes to his wife or partner and can take the advantage of it to maltreat that wife or partner is the one I find most confusing.
Stories abound of men and women who murdered their so-called ‘loved’ ones because of money or thirst for power. I find it difficult to believe that a man who could butcher his wife and cut her body into pieces and wrap them up and put in the freezer ever loved the woman he claimed to ‘love’. This is the dilemma I have when it comes to using the word ‘love’ to describe the feeling one professes to the other.
Love therefore remains in the mind, in the thought. But giving, even if it is an expression of the thought or feeling of love is visible. You give your time to someone who means a lot to you. You visit. You spend time together. You spend time writing letters. You spend time on the phone. And on bigger scale you exchange gifts.
Giving is in itself a divine idea. The more you give, the more blessed you are. Every culture, every tradition and every religion recognises and appreciates the value and virtue of giving. A person who is miserly or tight-fisted is hardly respected in/by and culture. In fact every culture has a derogatory word for the miserly.
Giving comes from the soul. And it is the most practical way of showing affection to another person. In man-woman relationships it is advised and recommended that both the woman and the man should imbibe the virtue of giving. A woman should not expect that each time she goes to the movies or to Restaurant it is the man who should foot the bill. It is good and respectable if the woman also gives her lover/friend/partner/husband a treat, fully paid for by her.
And men who take advantage of the affection women have for them and by so doing allow the women to always foot the bill must recognise that they are mortgaging their pride and dignity. Sooner or later the women in their life would leave them after branding them ‘a sucker’ or ‘sponge’!
Caring is most certainly a virtue and expression of affection, either for a given person or for generic humanity. As I said about having difficulty pinning the word ‘love’ on specifics, the word Caring is very explicit. It is also action-laden. It is not just a thought. It is not intangible. A caring person is too easy to recognise. By simply giving up one’s seat in a bus to the elderly, or a pregnant woman or a woman carrying a baby, one has demonstrated an act of caring. Caring comes from the kindness of the heart.
The Ijebu, a sub-culture/sub-ethnic of the Yoruba race places more value on Care than money! ‘Aajo j’owo!’, caring is of more humane value than just giving cash, they claim with air of finality. If a friend is performing final funeral rites on his or her mother, that friend is more likely to appreciate the contribution of a friend who sacrifices time to be with him or her than the friend who merely sends tonnes of money.
My 85-year-old Auntie popularly called ‘Face’ by her admirers is fond of telling any invitee to her ceremonies that ‘it is your face I want at the party, not your money. Face, you hear? Face!’ and that was how she became known as Madam Face!
Of the three words Loving, Giving and Caring, caring is about the most endearing. When a woman is expecting her husband back from a trip and she takes the trouble to keep in touch with the husband every inch of the journey by asking after his safety on the road, the man’s heart will be so much touched. He is likely to value the caring thought more than the professed verbal love or the sumptuous meal prepared for him. This gesture is also expected of a man who has just bidden his wife or partner farewell.
‘How far gone are you? Are you close to your destination? Hope the journey is not strenuous?’ Those should be the words of a caring wife.
Africa’s greatest media administrator and father of Nigeria’s modern journalism Dr Ismahil Babatunde Jose would remain unforgettable to all those who served under him, and even his contemporaries. What stood Jose shoulder higher than all his contemporaries was his extra-ordinary caring nature. Jose cared.
It was not about raising staff salary or rewarding excellence with all sorts of manners of encouragement, it was his human touch, human kindness and his ability to feel and share the pains of his staff; and even of friends and relations.
Jose would visit a driver involved in an accident at home; would visit the wife of any staff who had just given birth, he would phone you or your wife up on your birthdays. Until he passed on he never forgot to phone my wife on her birthday even in faraway Canada. And because he cared, all the staff would go extra mile to please him by doing their assignments diligently and to the best of their ability.
Most successful bosses in life are the ones that cared the most for their staff and followers. Caring therefore is not limited to the narrow precincts of lovers or married couples. This is perhaps why caring is the most valued of the three forces of love, giving and caring.
Although caring may be a manifestation of both loving and giving, and it may also incorporate giving, caring by itself can stand on its own. It may not necessarily be driven by sentimental love, and may not involve dispensing cash or any item of gift, it is by its own expression a manifestation of deepest humanity and humaneness.
It behoves all of to give and care. As to the expression of love or its being, its abstractness has rendered it indeterminable.
Otunba Tola Adeniyi is the former managing director of Daily Times
— Jul 20, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT