I have a proposal. It’s quite simple, at least in theory.
I propose a love fast, one in which we refrain from using the word in situations when it can be used interchangeably with other less weighty words.
For example, “oh my goodness, I love that dress!” or “you’re so funny, I just love you!” or “mmm Jake Gyllenhaal, I love him with all of my heart”. Instead I propose: “oh my goodness, that dress is beautiful!” or “you’re so funny!” or “mmm Jake Gyllenhaal, oh wait, I probably shouldn’t be lusting after another woman’s man anyways”.
When it comes to romantic love I tend to be a cynic. I’m working on it, but I’m the girl you don’t want to see a chick flick with if I’m in one of those cynical moods. It may be because I’m yet to fall under the spell of love, maybe it’s because I’ve lived logically all my life with no seasons of irrationality due to falling in love.
But the one thing I do know is that when I hear, “I love you” from people who know next to nothing about me, it simultaneously breaks my heart and makes me mad. If all you know is my name, my major, and my musical preferences, forgive me if I don’t believe you should be allowed to say those three words to me. And what does it really mean, when you tell me you love me? Is it the same love you feel for your car, or that beautiful dress, or that expensive guitar? Because if so, I want no part in it.
What is love, really? I know what the world says it is. Above all else, the world says that love is a feeling. In that state of euphoria, in those moments when everything is illuminated and radiant and vibrant, when there’s laughter ringing and arms are linked and hugs are freely given and everything feels just right, it is then that you are in love, romantically or platonically. But that love based on feelings is fleeting. Because when I move away, or when life gets busy and we don’t make time to laugh and hug, or when the colors aren’t as vibrant because it’s been a hard couple of months, the ones who “loved” you suddenly are nowhere to be found. They are now mere acquaintances. You have those awkward conversations that are merely shadows of what used to be.
That’s not love. That’s the world’s interpretation of love.
Love in its unadulterated form doesn’t give up when life gets hard, when people aren’t living up to its expectations. It waits out the storms without whining. It builds up, it doesn’t tear down. It isn’t blinded by jealousy when things are going better for a friend, or when they have that thing you so desperately want. It is humble, it doesn’t overbearingly talk about its successes. It isn’t rude to people, it doesn’t place its needs above others’. It certainly doesn’t harbor bitterness and anger which stem from an unforgiving heart. It addresses wrongs made against it, instead of living a lie, pretending everything is fine. It protects the hearts of those entrusted into its care. It also protects them physically if it can. It doesn’t give up hope ever, it never stops waiting, trying, loving.
If I think of the many times I’ve said, “love you!” to people I know, and then read the above paragraph, I can’t help but consider myself a hypocrite. What I was saying was, “in this moment, what we have right now feels so incredible that the only way I can express it is by saying that I love you.” But I don’t. Because soon that moment passes, and until the next euphoric moment, I hardly think about you. That’s not love. That’s not the love I want to receive, and it is most certainly not the kind of love I want to give.
Maybe we need another word that means I’m having a great time with you and want you to know that, and I also care about you to some degree. Because good times end, caring for someone can end, but love never ends. And you can’t love what you don’t know. You can’t love me if you don’t know me, if you don’t see me. And you can’t know me if I see you once a week and have a 3 minute conversation with you. Love takes effort. Love takes time. Otherwise, it isn’t love, and you don’t really love me. I don’t really love you.
Love is a choice, it is not a feeling. And it so terribly overused today, so overused that I fear it has begun to lose its true meaning. When I say I love someone, I want that to mean that I will honor them, put their interests above mine, still pursue their hearts even when it isn’t easy, and that I will never stop. That’s how I want to love my friends. That is not how I “love” that new dress – I don’t want to honor it, fiercely protect it, pray for it, cause that’d be creepy. That is not how I “love” Jake Gyllenhaal, although I admit that my insides become a gooey mess when he smiles at me (or the camera, if you’re being realistic). I think he is beautiful, and I thank God for making him but I don’t love him. And I’ll enjoy your company when we hang out and laugh hysterically for hours, but forgive me if I don’t respond to the carelessly thrown around I love yous. I want to mean it whenever I say it.
Will you join me in this?