How would you define “love”?
When I look up the definition on Dictionary.com, I’m given the following options:
1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3. sexual passion or desire.
4. a person toward whom love is felt; a beloved person; sweetheart.
I understand that coming up with just one, solid answer for a concept so complex is not realistic; however, am I the only one that’s not satisfied with these options?
Allow me to share an excerpt from a beautiful blog post that was shared with me (I will think of it as “paying it forward”): “Love isn’t an emotion or even a noun. It’s a verb. Better defined as giving. As putting someone else’s needs above your own.”
Love is a verb.
Love is something that you do to another human being, not just something that you feel.
That is probably the simplest, yet most powerful phrase I’ve read in an extremely long time.
Of course, being as interested as I am in human interactions, I can’t just stop there. The author’s premise is that, in doing small things for his wife, instead of just passively feeling an avalanche of emotions, their love was not only born, but also flourished. He writes:
Being sappy isn’t love. Telling someone you love them doesn’t mean that you do.
And now that I’ve tried to change the way I look at love, the more I become shocked at the messages of love I had gotten when I was younger.
From Disney movies to my favorite shows like “The Office” to practically every pop song released, love is constantly sold as an emotion we have before we’re married. An emotion that, once had, somehow magically stays within a marriage forever. I can’t imagine a bigger lie.
And I’m saddened to think about how much those messages bounced around in my head for so long. And how much I’m sure those messages are bouncing around in other people’s heads as well. I think that might be a big part of the reason the divorce rate is so high in this country. Imagine a whole nation of people constantly chasing the emotions they had when they were dating.
A country of people trying to live a Disney movie. That’s a recipe for disastrous marriages; for a country with a 50% divorce rate; for adultery (the classic attempt to turn the fire back on); for people who do stay together to simply live functional, loveless marriages.
It’s sad to see just how common all the above is. How many people are in pain simply because they’ve been lied to.
Those people deserve better. We all deserve better.
I believe he’s right. We tend to give up too easily on each other, and I don’t just mean in a serious relationship/marriage situation. We give up on each other by denying someone a smile or a “good morning” as we pass them on the street, by being impatient while waiting in line, by not even attempting to understand what the other is going through.
Should we never get mad at others? Should we always justify their actions, even if we don’t agree with them? Absolutely not. But before judging or condemning them, have we even stopped to think how we would feel or react if we were them?
It’s easy to love someone that is lovable, to care for them, to freely give them our time and energy. With that said, can you imagine how many more amazing things we would achieve in others –how positively we would impact their lives—if we consciously tried to put ourselves and our own selfish interests aside long enough to challenge and expand the way we love those we deem unlovable?
Think about it.
When you’re done, go do. Go love.
Photo: Belén Alemán / Lisbon, Portugal