A few hours ago, a good friend of mine ‘A‘ asked me a thought-provoking question:
‘Is love an emotion?’
Is it something we can’t help but ‘feel’ or ‘fall into’?
According to the handy-dandy dictionary, love is defined as –
- a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person,
- a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection,
- sexual passion or desire,
- a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart
- a term of endearment.
In light of these definitions (and the many many many many many many many many songs dedicated to love), it is easy to think that love is just emotion and feelings (the warm and fuzzy feelings, as people call them sometimes).
Personally, I think love is more of a response, stimulated by emotions arise from circumstances and situations. Love is not merely an emotion because it is usually accompanied with or followed by action, whether large or small. We love on purpose. It is a choice. We can choose to love or not to love. Emotions will arise regardless.
A throws this statement into the conversation and we ended up discussing it:
‘People confuse the emotions evoked by love to be love itself‘.
This is the way I see the statement:
Say for example I’m frustrated with a friend about something he/she has done, and I think that the reason I’m frustrated with this person is because I love him/her (as a friend) and I want the best for him/her (who wouldn’t, yeah?). With every emotion or feeling, there is usually a root thought. Usually we are frustrated with someone if he/she has disappointed our expectations in some way, and therefore has nothing to do with me loving that someone. If I’m not careful enough, I might think that because I love him/her, I therefore have the right to continue being frustrated with him/her (because to me, that’s what love is) rather than confront him/her about THE ISSUE ITSELF (and resolve it).
I’m confusing the emotions evoked by love for him/her (in this case, frustration) with love itself.
A gives another example – his mum gets worried when he goes somewhere without letting her know. She thinks it is because she loves him that she worries, but the actual problem is a ROOT of fearfulness.
I would like to challenge you to think about any similar situations you’ve been in and have a think. 🙂 There are so many facets and aspects to this (and the concept of love in general).
This is the way A perceives the statement:
To A, it’s easy to know whether you love someone if you would choose to love them even after they have done an unimaginable deed towards you (betrayal etc).Emotions (good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant), are there to colour the love. Otherwise, love would be pretty boring. However, colours appear different under different lighting. The same goes with emotions – this is why we should never make decisions based on our emotions.
(It’s like shopping in a grocery store with an empty stomach. Everything is appealing with an empty, usually growling stomach. I cannot tell you how many chocolate bars I’ve bought, Lindt dark chocolate of course, just because I was peckish. Most of them are still in my bedside drawer.)
A then throws another spanner into the works and asks, ‘So what about being in love?‘
Being a born-again Christian and being so desperately in love with God (but having never been in a proper relationship i.e. I’ve never dated anyone), I found it hard to answer that question fully. However, I do know that despite my tumultuous past and my uncertainties for the future, God’s love has never failed me.
So what exactly does ‘being in love‘ mean? I might follow up with another post after having a thorough think-sesh over this.
Unfortunately for the culture we live in, we throw the word ‘love’ around a lot, most of the time quite haphazardly. We do the same with the word ‘hate’ (believe it or not, it is actually a very powerful word).
‘Goodness me, I love this chocolate souffle.’
‘I love this colour!’
An ‘I love you!’ shouted from one end of the carpark to another to a friend before parting ways (I do that all the time).
Many don’t stop to consider what exactly they mean when they mention the word ‘love’. We can be in love with anything or to hold deep affection for something or someone – I would protect my friends and family to the end, no matter what. But I think that in everything we do, say, or think, even ‘falling’ or ‘being’ in love, it has to be filtered through the sieve of Kingdom/God principles. It is a wisdom thing – being equipped with a powerful Spirit who continually empowers you, counsels you, guides you, and discerns all things for you.
A sees being in love as a heightened form of love. Again, he reiterates it is a CHOICE. So whenever you’re faced with an option, you can choose whether to love or not to love, no matter where the person has come from or is going through. Being in a love has an element of spontaneity to it. When we are seeing them the way God sees them (fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, very much loved, valued and special in the eyes of God), the choice to love is so automatic that not wanting to love isn’t even an option. Your decision is always the same, unaffected by circumstances.
Danny Silk puts this very nicely,
“Yes, it’s vulnerable and scary to keep your love on toward someone who has become a perceived threat—you cannot guarantee what he or she is going to do. But you can guarantee your own choice. And you can always choose connection.”
― Danny Silk, Keep Your Love On
A agrees that it is essential to love and forgive the person who’s becoming or has become a threat to your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. However, it is also important to know how to protect yourself if you’re attacked or anticipating one.
In the quest to love the unloveable, you can still be vulnerable but not defenseless. (Think about it :))
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:16-19 NIV
Love is a lot of things, but essentially, it is a direct translation for God Himself.
It is also a language (5 to be specific, according to Gary Chapman’s ‘The Five Love Languages):
- Physical touch
- Words of encouragement
- Quality time
- Acts of service
Although everyone has a certain affinity to one or more of these, essentially they are called languages and they can be learnt. They are not exclusive either, the lines can be blurred. Many times genuine love is misunderstood because the receiver may not understand the gesture in which it is communicated by.
To end this post, the Scriptures paint a very vivid picture regarding the extent of God’s love for us – burning like blazing fire, stronger than the death, jealous demanding as the grave, many waters can’t quench its thirst (Songs of Solomon 8:6-7).
1 Corinthians 13 is famous for its description of what love is, contrary to the dictionary definitions. Have a look at this:
The Way of Love
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Love is not merely an emotion.
It is a choice.
It is active, not passive.
It gives more than it takes.
Ultimately, LOVE conquers all.