In works of fiction, it is very common to have one character in love with two others, or visa versa. This trope is so common in fact, that it has it's own name: "love triangle". At the risk of sounding pedantic though, it's usually not a true triangle. While there may be three points (one character and their two love interests), there are only two sides: one connecting the character with one love interest, and another connecting them with the other love interest. If there is any relationship between the two love interests, it is often characterized by jealousy, competition, disdain, or sometimes even hatred. That is, of course, the point of authors employing the love triangle: it's a very easy narrative device for generating conflict and driving the story.
God's love, however, works differently. This isn't to criticize the use of such a narrative device in fiction, nor to diminish the conflicts that can arise from similar scenarios in real-life. It's simply a reminder that when we strive to follow the great commandment, we are edified and drawn closer together.
The admonition for one to "love thy God, and thy neighbor as thyself" supplies us with the three points of our "True Love Triangle". The first two are obvious: love God and love thy neighbor. However, loving them "as thyself" implies the need to actually love oneself. After all, if we don't love ourselves, then loving God or our neighbor "as ourselves" doesn't actually mean much. To be clear, I am not referring to the prideful, narcissistic "self-love"that causes one to see themselves as superior to others. Rather, I am referring to love like God has for us.
This three-way relationship of love between God, our neighbor, and ourselves produces a beautiful harmony in which strengthening any one point of the triangle simultaneously strengthens the other two:
- The more we love God, the easier it is to love ourselves, because we'll feel closer to Him and see ourselves as He sees us: someone worthy of love.
- The more we love God, the easier it is to love our neighbor, because we internalize God-like attributes such as mercy, patience, and generosity.
- The more we love our neighbor, the easier it is to love God, because loving and serving our neighbor is one way to demonstrate our love for God (see Matthew 25:40, Mosiah 2:17).
- The more we love our neighbor, the easier it is to love ourselves, because showing love for others makes us feel good about ourselves.
- The more we love ourselves, the easier it is to love God, because dark thoughts of self-doubt will be diminished, which could otherwise distract us from thinking of God.
- The more we love ourselves, the easier it is to love our neighbor, because taking care of ourselves grants us the health and strength we need to serve others.
So if we are ever finding it difficult to feel love for God, ourselves, or those around us, we may find it easier to start with another point of the triangle. The more we sincerely express love, the more love we will be able to feel in turn.