What does it mean to love someone? First, we need to describe the type of love we are talking about. Today, society’s idea of love is very skewed. Most young people would not be able to give you a good definition of love, they would likely give an answer that more relates to how they feel for a person. Although this is an important type of love, alone it comes up pretty short if someone is looking for evidence of your love for them. Feelings are fleeting, can change like the weather, in an instant. I believe love is a verb, not as much an emotion.
Love is selfless
If you are doing something for someone with the expectation of gain or to boost your own ego, you are not doing it out of love. If I do the dishes for my wife and then get angry with her for not recognizing the hard work I put into it, I did not do the dishes out of love, I did them for recognition. My favorite acts of love is when the recipient has no idea what I have done for them. It is truly an act of love if I expect nothing in return, not even a thank you. It shows I am more concerned about the person’s well-being than I am about my own ego or recognition. Imagine how your neighbor might feel if you mowed their lawn while they were out-of-town and they never found out you did it for them. People have done random acts of kindness but not so many are willing to do them without someone noticing they’ve done it. You have truly shown love to that neighbor if they never find out what you’ve done. On the other hand, if you tell your friend what you’ve done for your neighbor, we are right back to seeking recognition and we taint the act of love.
Love desires peace
I have believed for quite some time that conflict or argument is directly related to selfishness. If we get into an argument it is usually because at least one of the two people arguing want to be right or want their way, sometimes both are guilty of this. A truly loving person can reprimand you and you might even thank them for it. I had an Aunt that would sit with me if I did something wrong and we would discuss the issue calmly. I always knew that she loved me, even when she was expressing displeasure in my behavior. To respond kindly rather than harshly shows your desire for peaceful resolution rather than war. If both people or sides are willing to hear each other out, discuss concerns, suggestions, or options rationally, then the likely outcome is going to be a peaceful decision. I might question a person’s love for me if every time I am with them we are in conflict. I would also want to self-reflect to see if I might actually be the cause of our conflict due to my own need to be right or have my own way.
Love is slow to anger and quick to forgive
I used to have a bit of a short temper. Again, likely a product of my selfishness. If I was not getting my way, someone was blocking the TV, or my schedule required adjustment to meet someone else’s needs, I would become pretty angry. It is not wrong to be angry, as long is it is about the right thing and it is handled in the right way. More often nowadays I get more angry at concepts than I do people, for example, what society deems worthy of praise. Look in almost any magazine and you see someone’s idea of perfection and beauty. I know way too many people who look great on the outside but are ugly people because of how they treat others and behave in public. Society also has a way of telling everyone what will make them happy and those things never seem to provide what is promised.
One of the hardest things for so many people to do is forgive; forgive others, to be forgiven by others, or even forgive themselves. To forgive does not necessarily mean we must immediately accept the wrong that has been done to us. It simply means that we will no longer hold it against them. Consequences of their actions may still be present, but we will no longer look upon that person with anger regarding the situation. I once heard the analogy that to hold on to anger was like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Not forgiving someone does way more harm to yourself than it will ever do to someone else. Also be willing to forgive yourself for wrongs you have done to other people once you have sought forgiveness, whether they have forgiven you or not. If you have asked for forgiveness and truly wish to receive it, you have done your part. If the other person refuses to forgive you, that is on them and it is no longer your responsibility so don’t let it keep you from the peace that forgiving yourself will bring.
The subject of love is one that can only come from the framework within which we live and view it. My framework and what I believe love to be derives from my belief and faith in God. I believe that God IS love. He is the perfect representation of love that is self-sacrificing and unconditional and He tells me about his love for me, how I should love others, and how I should love him given my desire to have a relationship with Him. Whatever your framework is, I hope that you strive to love others more than yourself, that you desire positive and lasting friendships and relationships, and that you express love despite the recognition you may or may not receive.
Have you shown anyone you love them lately? My challenge to you is not only to express to someone who you love by serving them in some way, but to express love to someone who will never know to thank you for it.