By Michael Kimmel
Do you know the story of Saint Valentine? Neither did I. So, I researched it and found it inspiring. Here are two versions of his story.
Version one. During the reign of Emperor Claudius II, Rome was involved in so many unpopular wars that it became hard for Claudius to recruit soldiers. He thought it was because they didn’t want to leave their partners (and lovers), so, mean old Claudius canceled all marriages in Rome. A local priest — Valentine — defied Claudius and secretly married many couples. When his defiance was discovered, Valentine was put to death on Feb. 14, about 270 AD.
Version two. Valentine was killed because he attempted to help Christians escape from Roman prisons. After being imprisoned himself, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Before his death, Valentine wrote her a farewell letter and signed it ‘From your Valentine.’ Thus, was that immortal phrase launched into history.
Both versions have, of course, a happy ending: By the Middle Ages, Valentine had become a heroic saint. Around 498 AD, Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 as St. Valentine’s Day to honor the martyr Saint Valentine.
Now, since none of us were around 1,741 years ago, it’s hard to say exactly how things went down. To me, the essence of Saint Valentine’s story is that 1) whatever we can do to help other people fall in love/remain in love is doing the work of Saint Valentine, and 2) any help and assistance we can give to people who are being tortured/abused is also in his spirit.
See where I’m going with this? You and I can be saints too. We can support people in finding and growing love in their lives.
However, for some people, being cynical and condemning love is part of being chic, smart and worldly. These folks verbally exterminate love wherever they go. Don’t go there. That kind of hip jadedness comes from fear: these modern-day Claudiuses are not happy, loved people. They deserve compassion, not condemnation.
Don’t argue with them. Instead, be an example of what Saint Valentine was about. Nurture love in the people in your life and focus on what’s kind and good in your world. What you focus on increases in your life and the lives of those around you.
And give love to people who are suffering. Since we live in San Diego, the immigrants at the border come to mind. You don’t have to go down there in person, but what can you do to help them? If you pray, you pray for their well-being. If you meditate, you could send them thoughts of love and comfort. If you have a few bucks to spare, you can send it to an organization/charity that can help these folks.
You might be reading this and think, these people don’t deserve a chance to come into this country (as some of my relatives in Ohio believe). If so, I ask you to take a big step. Be willing to open your mind to see things from their point of view and — even braver — be willing to be wrong.
And if you have people in your life who condemn immigrants, don’t condemn the condemners! Be willing to open your mind to see where these people are coming from. In the case of my relatives, they fear for their jobs and livelihood in small-town Ohio and are afraid that more immigrants coming into the country will somehow make their lives even harder.
When I keep this in mind, I have compassion for all these conservative Republicans that I’m related to (or not) and I can empathize with their fears and concerns about their families’ financial survival. I don’t need to argue with them. Perhaps, like Saint Valentine, I can counter the cruelty of any modern-day Claudiuses with my own efforts to bring more love and compassion into the world.
You too can be a saint. All it takes is a willingness to be more compassionate and caring to people who are suffering — whether they be immigrants or your best friend who just got dumped by their lover. And, when you do your bit to bring more love and kindness into the world, know that Saint Valentine would be proud.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.
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