What is love?
Since the primary focus of my website is about love, capturing love, and writing about love, I felt an appropriate way to begin my blog would be to define love itself.
Cue the music, “What is love? Oh, baby don’t hurt me. Baby don’t hurt me no more.” I couldn’t help myself.
We’ve all felt love in some way or another: We have loved our family, our moms, our dads, our pet dog, ourselves, sorbet ice cream, and don’t forget about grandma. Oh, my sweet 93 year old Nana Grambo, how I do love you so.
When we think of that love, our first inclination is to think about how it makes us feel. It makes our hearts pitter patter, our temperatures may rise, our chemical neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine, aka our “happy-go-go” juices) will spike, we may obsess about said person or thing, and we just feel all around twitter-pated. Intrinsically and not so coincidentally, we begin to believe that love is purely emotion. After all, that is what our culture teaches us. “Oh, those two lovebirds are off to get hitched.” Not sure if he’s right for you? “Well, how does he make you feel?” Assuming he makes you feel good, then by golly gosh you are on a first-class train to marriage town.
What’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t two people who are about to marry be in love with each other? Well, yes…and no. By culture’s definition of “in love,” I strongly oppose that theory. Culture says, love is “an intense feeling of deep affection” (this is the first definition that appears on google and google does not lie). And, it’s true isn’t it? It’s just as we were talking before. When you think about your love of someone or something, you instinctively consider how it makes you feel. And I used the word “it” there quite intentionally, as this definition consequently views the loved person or thing as an object of own’s own desire.
Now, on the flip side, I do also believe that two people should be in love in order to marry. However, I am stating this with a more specific, more narrow, and a more mature definition of love in mind. In the powerful words of St. Thomas Aquinas,
“Love is willing the good of the other”
Woh, mic drop. *Mind blown*
If we want to get REALLY specific, we would go to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
In other words,
Love is not a feeling, it is an action, choice, & commitment.
Feelings are merely a byproduct of love, but do not define love in and of itself.
Love is choosing what is best for the other, placing them before oneself. It is sacrificial and requires a powerful death, that which creates rebirth: the death of oneself, to relive for another.
There are infinite examples of what true love is, but to name a few: Love is when a husband takes over the dishes, laundry, and vacuuming because his wife is overworked and overstressed, love is picking up a friend from the airport at 2 am when you work the next day, love is volunteering for a deployment so that the newly married couple can spend their first year together, love is feeding your alarm-clock dog early in the morning so your spouse can sleep longer, love is when a mother sacrifices her alone time to give her daughter a little extra mommy time before summer ends, love is telling the telephone operator that they are doing a wonderful job and thanking them for their time when you could tell they were having a hard day (even if your needs were not met perfectly)… love is sacrifice, big or small.
This is all crazy talk.
Actually, it’s not. This stuff dates back to ancient Greece, and I’m sure even well before that (shh, I did not research the precise date.) Even the greeks discuss this type of self-giving love through Agape and Pragma love. Agape love is the “highest form of love and charity [or] the love of God for man and of man for God. It embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends, that persists regardless of circumstance.” Again, we are talking about self-less love that does not rely on fleeting emotions to act as the foundation of one’s relationship. Secondly, Pragma love is known as enduring love or long-lasting love. It withstands the trials of time and life’s storms, because it does not rely on impulses or emotions for it’s nourishment. It is wise and mature as it defines relationships based on quality, trust, communication, and mutual goals. It does not depend on idealism or desires for perfectionism, but rather seeks refuge in the realities of our partners, and accepts them for exactly who they are.
Being accepted for who you are? Count me in.
This is true love.
Ps. I must dedicate this post to my beloved husband, Greg. You go above and beyond in your self-service, self-sacrifice, and dedication to demonstrate true, Christ-like love to me. You show me love through both feeling and action. Thank you, I love you, too, and can only hope I demonstrate this through action as well as you do.