The Importance of Giving Love


An entire book can be written based on the above title alone — and many have. I don’t want to linger right now on something that I feel I could handle with concision. In my experience, when a book is dedicated to something hyper-specific, I start getting the idea fairly quickly with still quite a bit of book left to read. Also, I find it completely unbearable to read a book devoted to positivity and love. As much as I believe in love and the spreading of it, something about three hundred pages of happiness makes me furious. This is my own problem — an MP not a YP.

In short, I find prolonged discussion of happy things to be far too easy, so much so that it borders on pandering. Regardless, as the title of this piece suggests, I want to discuss the importance of giving love. Before we go any further, I need to define what I mean when I say, “give love.” While romantic love is certainly included in this, that isn’t what I’m referring to. No, I am referring to the simple acts of kindness, benevolence and observation that can change the course of someone’s day strengthen the bond between us as a species.

The first two things — kindness and benevolence — are quite self-explanatory, but perhaps observation is not. By observation I mean noticing things about the people you encounter whether they’re strangers or lifelong friends. However, observing isn’t enough. Yes, it’s great if you happen to notice that the woman or man behind you has a particularly infectious disposition, but that observation is a private thought unless you say something. That’s the meat — I’ll serve it up to you here early so you can keep it in mind as you read on — give the love verbally, be it aesthetic or much deeper. In this case, observe and report to the person whom you observed. People need this. I need this. You need this.

Think back to a time — perhaps this week, perhaps when you were fifteen — but think of a time when an off-the-cuff comment pulled you out of a funk. That little bit of love goes a long way. I don’t want to give the impression that these comments are only to be of an aesthetic nature. Don’t hit on people, you creep. No, the love can take many forms, aesthetic of course being only one of them. If there were to be a hierarchy of love-spreading things you could say to a person, appearance would be near the bottom. Yes, it’s great to hear that you look good, but that’s merely an appetizer, not a meal. No, it’s the love you give that shows deep observation and appreciation that can really save a life. I know, we jumped a bit and got dramatic in terms of life-saving, but stay with me — I’ll try my best to keep this away from hippie-ramblings.

Life-saving is dramatic you think? OK, let me show you where I’m coming from with this. Depression affects more people than you can possibly know. It’s not necessarily what you might picture in your mind when you think of a depressed individual. The person that YOU see could easily be a boisterous individual, socially outgoing and fun-loving — but the private person may be struggling with the darkest sadness and desperation, and you’d never know. 

Often, you never know until it’s too late. I myself have struggled with depression my whole life — I’m a tapestry of psychoses — but unless I told you specifically, you might never know. For some it may be quite obvious, but that’s neither here nor there. Some people are going through life, and unbeknownst to you they are constantly ruminating over their flaws, mistakes and the futility of their existence. They’re not going around saying it, it doesn’t come out while they’re placing their Starbucks order, “Honestly, I don’t really see the point in living. Nobody likes to be around me and I’m never going to be anything. If I died, nobody would know for a while. Oh sorry, Venti Caramel Macchiato with Almond Milk.” 

That specifically doesn’t happen, but just because you don’t see it [depression] manifest itself doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. I’m well aware that the last sentence was a quadruple-negative, but I hope you’re still with me. The point here is that depression isn’t a loud, out-front illness; but when it’s in there, it screams only to you. Your erroneous observation and reporting that someone is a joy to be around, that they look great, have a great smile, or are very intelligent could mean so much more than you ever could’ve assumed. It could very well be that a person has been grappling with the notion that they’re worthless, and you just righted their course if only for a brief moment. Those things add up.

Untreated depression is a terrible shame. I know that in my own experience I rarely brought my depression up so as not to bother anyone with my own problems. “Why would I want to bring everyone else down? I’ll keep this to myself.” The thing is, if you bore your soul to a fellow human being, if you told them that you felt insignificant, they wouldn’t dismiss you without a care — they would tell you that you’re wonderful and that you deserve all the love in the world — and they would be right. I’d like to reiterate for maximum clarity. If you told the average decent person about your depression, they WOULD NOT tell you to fuck off or that your concerns of insignificance were justified — they’d embrace you. 

You deserve love. I deserve love. Every one of us deserves love. Give it, don’t keep it in. If you see someone you know and notice something wonderful about them that you’ve never voiced, tell them. If perchance a stranger just got verbally abused, give them love. Don’t be the person that says, “Nobody gave it to me, why should I give it to anyone else? Toughen up.” If you never received the love, that is tragic, but why continue the trend? The world is dark enough, don’t make it darker. Please, give the love whenever it occurs to you to do so.

Why? Why all this discussion about giving love? Well, in January of 2018, a childhood friend of mine, Keith, took his own life. I hadn’t even known that he was struggling, maybe nobody did. But I wish he were here. I wish I could look down at him — he was rather short — into his bright eyes and tell him how much joy he brought to everyone. He was hilarious, he was irreverent, and he didn’t ask much of anyone. I wish I could give him the love. Keith was my age and, in a way, the most successful [1] of my friends. He helped people for a living, he was a nurse. On the night that I found out about his death, I wrote a short piece titled “Meditations on the Eve of a Suicide.” I will include that for you. It was written within an hour or so of hearing the news, and I feel that it really connects to what we’re talking about — it’s raw, as you could imagine that it would be so soon after a tragedy. I will conclude this piece by simply pleading with you to give love whenever you possibly can, no matter how seemingly insignificant the gesture is. Please, give love. You never know when a person is on the verge of a decision like Keith made. And, dear reader, if you are struggling with depression privately, as so many people are, bring it up. I guarantee you that nobody [2] will turn you away, you only think they will. As promised, here is the piece I wrote immediately following Keith’s untimely death:

January 21st, 2018

Meditations on the Eve of a Suicide

I

I received word this evening that a person whom I grew up with took his life via a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. I had fallen out of touch with him for quite some time, and in fact we were never really that close to begin with, but nevertheless it is shocking to hear that a contemporary of yours has decided to stop living. I had known he owned a gun, so when I heard he had indeed taken his own life there was no doubt in my mind as to how he did the deed. It is truly a tragedy.

II

In a time such as this, you begin to wonder what was so wrong in this young man’s life that he could no longer go on living it. It is easy for the living to ask after the recently deceased with the hindsight and perspective of someone who has observed from outside. And while it is not intrinsically wrong for someone to say of a suicide victim, “he/she had so much to live for, if only they reached out,” but, to the person doing it, there is no reason to believe there would be any sort of respite. I myself, like most humans, have entertained the thought [suicide] only to push it back out of my head. My own depression cannot be comparable to someone as low as this promising young man was at the time that he made the decision to exact a permanent solution to temporary problems.

III

In thinking about suicide, my mind is always drawn to the aftermath: the family, the friends, the person or people who found the departed — all of these people have to live on with a profound new sadness unlike any other. In this case, a close friend of mine was the person to find him. Keith had been living with Carly [my friend] and her boyfriend, Ryan — who is another person I’ve known since childhood — and Carly was the one to discover him. My heart goes out to her in this turbulent time and in dealing with this new traumatic image from which she will not likely ever escape for as long as she lives. She didn’t need this new darkness, her boyfriend didn’t need this darkness, his family certainly didn’t need this, nobody needed this, least of all Keith. He is survived by his siblings, mother, and father who are no doubt in their own version of hell right now and left with no answers. My heart truly breaks for them.

IV

It’s easy to lament the decision and offer the alternative narrative wherein the victim reached out to someone, anyone, for help. But, we must remain beings rooted in reality and there is nothing to be gained from ignoring or altering that reality to ease the pain. I’m a cynic, but I’ve got only love to give. I loved Keith, the departed, the same way you just love all of the good people you know and perhaps don’t know. I truly love Carly, who found him, and Ryan, her boyfriend. I love Keith’s mother, Dorothy, as well as his father and siblings. I love them all and I cannot even fathom such a terrible event transpiring in my more immediate circle or to my own family and friends if I were to be in Keith’s place.

V

To the deceased: Keith, I am sorry you were in such tremendous pain. I’m sorry you couldn’t get past it. I’m sorry that you didn’t feel someone could help. I’m sorry about whatever circumstances lead you to that decision. May you rest well. I love you.

VI

To the family: I cannot know your pain, but I love you all the same. He was a beautiful soul, this you know, and I am sorry he is gone so abruptly.

VII

To Carly and Ryan: This will be with you both forever, and for that I am sorry. I love you both.

VIII

In closing I would like to say one last thing. The pain Keith felt was no doubt very real pain. This pain is not ever to be diminished, he was certainly in the darkest place that one’s soul could reach. It is a dire tragedy that he took his life and saw fit to end his pain permanently. Keith, I love you and I will miss you and knowing that you’re in the world. Remain in light.


[1] In this case, success is measured by the amount one helped their fellow humans. Keith certainly did that, ten-fold.

[2] Nobody worth speaking to.

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: