Teresa of Avila Has Really Gotten Inside My Head

Teresa of Avila says that we should do "that which best stirs us to love." - So how does that work?
Photo by Kyle Glenn.

“The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.”
― Teresa of Avila

I came across this quote recently, and it won't leave me. It's that last part that gets to me the most: the instruction to "do that which best stirs you to love."

I imagine she may have written this in opposition to "I think, therefore I am", to redirect away from the idea that thinking is the defining element of humanity, but now it feels like an antidote to the "you do you" philosophy that is so shareable on social media. You know, "you are only responsible for yourself and your actions and happiness is the best thing and just do things that make you happy and love yourself and don't worry about anything else." It's a very Instagrammable philosophy.

It seems, however, that Ms. Teresa is suggesting a love that's not just for ourselves. She doesn't suggest we do that which we love doing the most or that which stirs us to feel love. She wants us to do that which stirs us to love, period. Love, it seems, is a verb. Its focus is external.

But! That's not all! Because she also isn't saying to just go out and force ourselves to love people. She is saying to do things that best stir us to love. That naturally tease the love out of us. It is, to a degree, "you do you"; it's "you do the thing that most brings out an active kid of love in you."

So what is that thing? What kinds of activities bring out love? In me? In others? In us?

The first thing I think of is acts of service, which are, of course, acts of love, so it's probably cheating. Still, let's go with it for a minute.

For example, last night I sewed a Halloween costume for my nephew. It was something I naturally wanted to do out of my love for both him and my sister, as well as a selfish desire to see pictures of him dressed up like a dinosaur (he will look so cute!). Plus, I like making things.

It wasn't forced or begrudging. It was an act of service for people I care about that I enjoyed doing AND it brought me into a space of active love.

So maybe that's a thing. Maybe love begets love. Maybe if we start where the loving is easy and act on that, we will be stirred to love more, in general.

This seems as good a place to start as any.

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