8 lessons from Victor Hugo to deepen your understanding of love

When I read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo for the first time, I realized that apart from great storytelling, this man had a knack for quotes about love.

This isn’t all that surprising, of course – Hugo, the great French writer of the 19th century, is known for his admiration of love and its power.

Have you read some of his quotes before? If so, you’ll know that they make for amazing lessons that can deepen our understanding of love.

Here we go!

1) “To die for lack of love is horrible. The asphyxia of the soul.”

Starting off on quite a depressive note…

Hold on, though. Is it really all that sad? I mean, just think about it. Hugo’s saying that lack of love is the asphyxia of the soul, and once you flip the meaning, you’ll realize that to have love is to breathe life into your soul.

In other words, love is the greatest thing in life you can strive to achieve because it’s also the one thing that will fill your soul with true happiness.

In the 21st century, this might sound like a bit of a stretch – nowadays, many people hop from one relationship to another and flip between friends like TV shows on Netflix. 

But no matter how much our society has changed since Hugo, human nature stays the same.

Studies show that the quality of your relationships is what determines your well-being the most. Even after all these years, we still need love to feel fulfilled – and I don’t just mean the romantic kind.

I mean love in its pure form. Love that extends to everybody.

2) “You who suffer because you love, love still more. To die of love is to live by it.”

Some people say that love brings pain. I couldn’t disagree more.

Love is never painful. All the emotional baggage around it is. 

If you love a romantic partner and get jealous, for example, it’s not your love that makes you jealous – it’s your fears caused by your past, your self-esteem issues, your anxious attachment, or a myriad of other things.

But not love.

Therefore, you might suffer because you love, but the only cure is to love even more – and to work on your issues in the meantime. 

Because at the end of the day, it is the fact that you love somebody that motivates you to love them in the best way you know how.

Love might indirectly trigger suffering, but it also helps you heal it. How beautiful is that?

3) “What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!”

That brings us to another quote. While Hugo acknowledges that being loved by somebody is an amazing feeling – no one wants to feel misunderstood and alone, after all – he highlights that the ability to love someone with all your heart brings even more happiness.

This might seem counterintuitive. Surely, being loved is better than loving? I mean, what if you love someone who doesn’t return the favor? What if you love someone who hurts you and breaks up with you?

Even then, the fact that you’re able to love another person so damn much is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Being loved is great, but it’s a bit like collecting small gifts and tucking them away. Loving, on the other hand, is like having a limitless supply of gifts and showering the whole world with them.

Research agrees – it’s been shown that choosing to give money to charity increases our happiness. Loving works on the same principle. I mean, what is charitable behavior if not love?

Here’s another quote by Victor Hugo to drive the point home: “Our mind is enriched by what we receive, our heart by what we give.”

4) “How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.”

I love this quote because it speaks of the inherent nature of love – it belongs in the world in the same way that forests and animals do.

To love is to experience life in its true form. And if you spend your whole life shielding yourself from love for fear of getting hurt, you’ll never be able to reach that authentic state of being – in your world, the birds won’t sing and the rose won’t unfold.

And that’d be a shame.

While falling in love is incredibly scary and there’s a high chance it’ll end up with you crying over a broken heart, it’s also a fundamental part of being human. Don’t rob yourself of the experience.

Being able to love somebody with all your heart is always worth it.

5) “To love beauty is to see light.”

This is a very interesting quote because it seems quite superficial at first glance.

Isn’t Hugo basically saying that only beautiful things can be loved? Isn’t he saying that beauty means light and ugliness means darkness?

Well, it depends on how you look at it.

Personally, I see beauty in almost everything. To me, beauty isn’t just about symmetry or aesthetics. It’s about souls, energies, and the art of noticing the small and miraculous things in life.

The sunset is beautiful. The act of breathing is beautiful. A human soul is beautiful. The fact that you’re able to notice and love the beauty in the world around you is what shows you see true light.

6) “A compliment is like a kiss through a veil.”

Our next lesson is about… drumroll… the power of compliments!

It’s quite funny – most of the time, we don’t realize just how important our compliments are. If I compliment someone on their skirt, it’s just a few words for me, while for them, it could make their day and boost their confidence.

The same applies to romantic relationships. I think Hugo’s metaphor is an apt one – a compliment is an expression of love in the same way a kiss is, except it’s shown via different means.

What this teaches us is that we ought never stop complimenting the people we love. A simple “You’re beautiful” can go a long way.

7) “To love is to act.”

Victor Hugo is said to have written these words just before he died, wrapping up his life’s philosophy and the importance he placed on love.

And what a beautiful statement to leave behind! “To love is to act” reminds us that love isn’t just a state of mind; it’s an action that we choose to perform every single day.

When you compliment your partner, you’re loving them. When you offer to take your mom on a trip, you’re showing her your love.

Actions speak louder than words, after all, and nowhere is this clearer than in our personal relationships.

So listen to Hugo and take action. Show, don’t tell.

8) “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Our last quote wraps up the article quite nicely – it’s all about the true meaning of love.

When you love another person, Hugo says, you see the face of God, which essentially means that love *is* God.

There is no higher entity than love in its pure form. There is no higher ideal to aspire to than to love with all your soul. When you genuinely love someone, you’re as close to God as can be.

As the Beatles would go on to say a century later, “All you need is love.” 

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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