"An operational question I use to help people determine if they really love someone is, 'Would you take a bullet for this person?' This may seem an extreme standard, since few of us are required to confront such a sacrifice and none of us can say with certainty what we would do if our desire for self-preservation collided with our love for another. But just imagining the situation can clarify the nature of our attachments."
Gordon Livingston, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, pp. 9 - 10
Jesus of Nazareth said, "No greater love has any person than to lay down his/her life for a friend."
Who would you take a bullet for? One of your children? Grandchildren? Parent? Brother and/or sister? Spouse/partner? Friend? Country? Religion? Some other ideal or cause? A stranger?
Love is a strange thing. True love leads us to appreciate the interdependent web of life and leads us to the awareness that all life is precious probably none more valuable or less valuable than the next. The altruistic, empathic response is to sacrifice our own well being for the good of others, but in the more primitive brain is the desire for self preservation.
The narcissistic need for self-preservation and self satisfaction competes with the empathic concern for the other. In a paradoxical way, true compassion flowers when awareness reaches its pinnacle and we become one with the universe. As the monk said to the hot dog vendor, "Make me one with everything."
When our awareness melts away the ego and we become one with everything, love abounds, and compassion spreads like a fragrance and blesses everyone and everything within which it comes into contact.