Recently, I started reading the book Yes or No, by Jeff Shinabarger.  The book is about making everyday decisions that will forever shape your life.  Chapter three was on love and how love shapes your decisions.  However, when I read the chapter, it spoke to me in a way that was far beyond how love shapes our decisions.  The chapter talked about how love is contagious and how our decisions match our love.  How where we spend our time and money shows where our love lies.  That what we love and whom we love is the starting place for making decisions.  All of this got me thinking on a deeper level though.  It made me start questioning what love really is and are we even truly capable of loving.  So, today’s blog is on love.  However, as I started writing this, it quickly  dawned on me that there is just want too much on the topic of Love to put in one post.  It would be an overwhelming amount of information.  So, God has laid it on my heart to turn this post into a series on Love.  The series will include the definition of love and defining love for ourselves, do we need love, why we should love, what love can do for us, the types of love, how we should show love, and are we capable of loving.

What is Love?  Love is such an incredibly powerful word that describes the most spectacular, indescribable, deep euphoric feeling.  Oliver Wendell Holmes says, “Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.”  It is an unconditional affection with no limits or conditions.

Merriam-Webster defines love as a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.  It is a feeling of profound tenderness, passion, and attachment.

Rainer Maria Rilke says, “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.”  I think Rilkes best describes what love is.

To me, being in love involves always wanting to be around that person, and when you are not, you are constantly thinking about them because you have this strong desire to be with that person – without them, your life simply feels incomplete.  It involves trust and the desire to do anything for that person.  When you love someone, you want nothing more than to be there for him or her and to do whatever it takes to make him or her happy.  You put their needs before your own.  Love drives you to want to be affectionate and devoted and sacrifice for them.  It is intense, powerful, and passionate.  It makes the world seem brighter, life seem happier, and everything more wonderful.  Mark Twain says is best when he says, “Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”

I believe there is one word that frees us from all the weight and pain of life: and that word is love.

It is important to understand what love is and what love is not.  True love is caring, attraction, attachment, commitment, and intimacy.

CARE – When you truly love someone, you care for them physically and emotionally – ensuring you meet all their needs from food in their bellies to roofs over their heads to wrapping them in an embrace when they are sad – showing you care through respect and understanding, being kind and generous.  “A simple smile, nice words, or hug can go a long way,” Richard Doughty.

ATTRACTION – Attraction and chemistry are crucial to lasting love.  It allows two people to form a bond and become partners, no longer being two separate individuals.  Without romantic desires, a relationship is nothing more than lust and infatuation and it will not last.

ATTACHMENT – Attachment comes after attraction.  It is a long-term love that appears at some point in a relationship.  It sneaks up on you, and when it does, you cannot deny that you have it.  It is the point where you can honestly say, “I have seen the worst and the best you have to offer, and I still love you.”

COMMITMENT – When it comes to the heart, commitment is essential.  It is the knowledge that your partner cares for you and has your back no matter the circumstances.  Even when there is something negative in the relationship, there is such a commitment, attraction, and attachment that you can still only see the good in that person – only see the positive.

INTIMACY – Intimacy is crucial in any relationship.  In order to know one another, you need to share parts of yourself with your partner.  It is a self-revealing behavior and when reciprocated, forms an emotional bond that can never be broken.  Over time, this bond will strengthen and evolve allowing the two people to merge closer and closer together.  Intimacy itself is a friendship.

On the other hand, love is not manipulation, compromising who you are, or violent.  In love, you do not manipulate the other person.  You do not compromise your values or who you are.  However, this does not mean there should not be little changes made to your life – like putting down the toilet seat or putting the cap back on the toothpaste.  Lastly, at no point is love violent – a relationship with physical or emotional violence is not true love!

Nicholas Sparks says this about love, “Love is more than three words mumbled before bedtime.  Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other every day.”

Everyone has a different definition of love.  A friend of mine, Richard Doughty, described love as this, “Love is a feeling that brings a smile to your face.  It is knowing that something or someone is there to help you if you are in need.  It is a feeling that someone is there for you no matter how good or bad your day was.”  Another friend, Dewayne, said, “Love is unconditional, and requires trust and friendship.”

Everyone’s definition of love differs to some extent; and the first step in understanding what love is requires defining love for you.  Therefore, here is your challenge: take a second, write down your thoughts and feeling on what love means to you, and determine your definition of love.  While doing this, break your definition of love down like a psychologist, into three components: passion, intimacy, and commitment.  Passion is the underlying physical desire, sexual behavior, and arousal – the physical side of love.  Intimacy is the emotional aspect of love – closeness, connections, warmth, security, and friendship.  Lastly, commitment is the decision-making part – the choice of choosing to love and the willingness to work on love daily.  A very close friend of mine could not have said it better than this, “Love is a choice.  You have to wake up every day and decide to love someone no matter how wrong they have done you that day or the night before.  You have to love them and see them the way God does.”  LOVE IS A CHOICE!!!  And, it’s one we have to make daily.  Point blank.

“Love gets harder when we get honest.  True maturity means that day after day we wrestle with whom we really love and whom we love most” (Shinabarger, 2014).  Whom and what we love most will gain priority in our everyday decision and choices.  This is why understanding what love is to us individually is so important.  It allows us not only to identify what and whom we love, but to understand why we make the decisions we do and live the lives we live. To make better choices, we need to change the way we love from loving me to loving others.  For a deeper love to drive our choices, we must engage with our struggle with our selfishness because our selfishness is our greatest battle in life.  We cannot truly love others until we overcome our selfish desires.  This requires making ourselves vulnerable with others, opening up broadly to reveal our true selves, knowing that it can be painful but doing so with the knowledge that the pain is better than the alternative.  My friend, Richard, said it best when he said, “Love does exist.  We need love to grow.  It can be rewarding and it can be painful; but we need to it exist.”

Food for thought and discussion questions:

  • What does your money and time say about what and who you love?
  • How have your experiences shaped who and what you love?
  • How do your decisions in everyday life reflect whom and what you love?
  • Prioritize your loves… Rank them from greatest to least and no love can have the same ranking. What do these rankings say about how you feel about love?