Mother Teresa famously once said, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts there can be no more pain, and only love.” I read this quote for the first time the evening I departed for Kolkata, India to serve with the Missionaries of Charity a little over a year ago. Together, that trip and this quote slowly ignited a spark in my soul: a yearning to discover how to truly love. And not just love like a Nicholas Sparks movie, but love like Mother Teresa in her burning desire to win souls and spread joy.
Recently, I read a similar quote from Mother Teresa, saying, “Give! Give the love we have all received to those around you. Give until it hurts, because real love hurts. That is why you must love until it hurts. You must love with your time, your hands, and your hearts.” Real love hurts. Even now, reading this aloud puts a bitter taste in my mouth. Many of us know from personal experience that love can lead to pain, whether it be breakups, let downs, or rejections. However, we attribute this pain to something other than love.
We stop loving when we are giving more than we are receiving. We equate feelings of happiness with love, and feelings of hurt with hatred. However, according to Mother Teresa, all the pain, let downs, and rejections we’ve felt by others are actually our first invitation to truly love them.
Mother Teresa equated all of her success to one thing: Love. She loved deeply, wholly, and unconditionally. She placed every ounce of her trust in God. She poured her love upon strangers. Many of us idolize Mother, as we wish we had the capacity to aimlessly and endlessly love.
However, Mother Teresa is saintly not because she effortlessly loved everyone, but because she chose to love, even in times it caused her hurt. This conscious choice to unconditionally love and trust in God made an earth-shattering and unforgettable impact on this world.
While not all of us are called to serve to poor on the streets of Kolkata, we are all called to love in this manner. We are all called to, “love until it hurts” because true love is dying for another. True love is giving heart, mind, and body so that another soul may use you as a stepping ladder to see God more fully. Love is looking at a person’s deepest most faults, instabilities, and, proclaiming that this person, if only but a stranger, is worth laying down your life for. Love is sacrifice, and love requires vulnerability.
These are two of the hardest attributes a person can simultaneously attain; it is a recipe for pain. Because we are imperfect in nature, love assures hurt. But love is the only force of nature powerful enough to bring another soul to God, and that gift alone should be worth any amount of agony. Mother Teresa is extraordinary, simply because she chose to unreservedly love each and every person she encountered, regardless of the pain, sadness or despair she felt.
Mother Teresa got it right: Real love hurts. However, this pain is temporary, and the love that is left is everlasting. If you love and are hurt, love more. If you love more and are hurt more, love even more. Fill the world with your love. Love so deeply, so widely, and so purely, that there simply is no room in your heart for hurt.
Britt is in her final year as an undergrad student at Ave Maria University in sunny Southwest FL. She is a mother to Christopher 3. She is devoted to living intentionally and loving unconditionally.