John Steinbeck will be remembered as many things – as the author of Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and many other canonical works of American literature, of course. To his son Thom, however, he was a sagacious authority on love, as evinced by this 1958 note taken from a collection of Steinbeck’s letters.
In the note, Steinbeck advised his son, who was away at boarding school, about the boy’s new love.
There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.