True Love? What is it?
By Leslie Vernick
Many people grow up learning about romance and relationships from TV Reality shows like the Bachelor or the Bachelorette. We all enjoy seeing love blossom, magical dates and romantic proposals. But after 21 seasons of the Bachelor, only one Bachelor is married to the woman he chose on the show. Sean Lowe married Catherine Giudici. Falling in love is easy for most people. Staying in love over the long haul is much, much harder.
As a Christian counselor and coach I see many couples who struggle to keep their marriages intact because of erroneous assumptions about the true meaning of love.
In the spirit of Valentines Day, I thought I’d clarify what genuine love is and how it behaves.
I often tell people that I love pizza. Or I love to play pickleball. I also love my children and grandchildren. I love my husband and my God. Are all my loves the same? What about people who love to do drugs? Love money? Love power or love getting away with doing bad things? Love is an inadequate word to describe all of these feelings and actions. The Eskimos have 22 different words for love. English has only one. When someone says, “I love you” what does that really mean? Does it mean I enjoy you? What happens when I don’t enjoy you anymore? When you’ve gotten boring or had a hard day and don’t act very fun or wonderful to be around? Does that mean I don’t love you anymore?
Sometimes I think what someone really means when he or she tells someone “I love you” is “I love the way you make me feel”. “You bring me pleasure”. “You turn me on”. “You make me feel good about myself.”
And the downside to that kind of love is when you fail to do those things for me, I no longer feel love for you. Perhaps I never loved you at all. What I really loved was you loving me.
Many people are not really looking for someone to love, but for someone to love them. But then again what does that mean? Does it mean when someone loves you that he or she always indulges your every wish? That he or she does everything you want? Does real love ever hurt or feel bad? Is genuine love always full of stars and songs and warm fuzzy feelings?
The Bible tells us “this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers”. What does that look like among mere mortals?
The Bible tells us. It says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-20).
True love is not a feeling, although those fluttery feelings are wonderful. The Bible says that love behaves a certain way. Below are 10 action phrases that define and describe true love. True love is always:
- Action-oriented, not empty promises or flowery words.
- Truthful not flattering or deceptive.
- Sacrificial not self-centered: (Sacrificing yourself for the right choice – the beloved’s good, not just to be a martyr of someone else’s foolishness).
- A gift. Not a reward for someone’s good behavior.
- Fighting for the welfare of the relationship, not for one’s own way.
- Respecting differences and values the beloved.
- Forgiving, even when forgetting or trusting again isn’t possible or wise.
- Admitting wrong, not only with words but with actions that are consistent with repentance.
- Seeking the good of the other, allowing and applauding his or her growth.
- Committed to the best interests of the beloved, not just the momentary satisfaction of getting one’s felt needs met.
True love is tough to sustain. It’s hard work. And we can’t do it without God’s love filling us, empowering us, and equipping us.