What is the relationship between love and understanding? Both are streams from the same source, but whereas love flows through the heart, understanding flows through the mind. Understanding helps us see the truth, and love causes us to act on it.
Understanding assists love by helping us recognize ourselves in others, and helping us see that for all our superficial differences, we are of the same essence. Without understanding, it is all too easy to be judgemental. We see someone acting selfishly, and a barrage of anger and criticism arises within us. Understanding helps us see past their behaviour and to recognize that this seemingly selfish person seeks love and happiness, just the same as we do. Rather than judging that person as “bad”, we view their selfishness as ignorance, and we feel compassion for them. Understanding makes us more accepting, less judgemental, and thereby removes some of the impediments to love.
Love, on the other hand, is the quality that makes us try to understand another person in the first place. It is what makes us willing to reach out and touch them, to put ourselves in their shoes. Love is what stops us from rejecting or ignoring those whom we may otherwise recoil from. Whereas understanding is helpful for love, love is absolutely essential for true understanding. It is the faith in humanity that causes us, when we see someone acting nastily and we do not know why, to have compassion for them anyway. Only with this compassion can we even begin to think about why they act the way they do. Only with this compassion can we come to understand them and to love them completely.
Therefore, when we come to love and understand a person or thing, the first impulse is from the heart. The love comes before the understanding. However, from this point on, they each boost each other. Without understanding, there is a danger that the love will go away. Understanding is what maintains the love and helps it expand to encompass all. Yet without love, the understanding is empty. Love is not merely understanding a person, but feeling compassion for them, wanting to help them, and holding them in our hearts.