Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love is not...

At this time of year, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that love is about flowers, chocolates and very pink looking cards. It’s a pretty warped idea of love.

But then, watch any movie or television show and you’re likely to get as equally a warped view of love. Is it any surprise that many people’s idea of love is also warped?

Love is not flowers or chocolates or cards. Yes, these things may show someone’s love. But the absence of Valentine’s Day gifts does not mean love is missing anymore than their presence means that love is there.

Love is not wanting someone, in the way that someone wants to own or possess something. That’s lust.

Love is not trying to make someone fall in love with you or stay with you or come back to you. And it’s certainly not about trying to force them to do any of these things. That’s coercion.

Love is not about control or jealousy or always getting your own way or holding a grudge or winning an argument.

Love is definitely not about taking. And taking doesn’t just mean removing something from someone by force. It also means trying to make someone give you something they don’t actually want to give you. Trying to persuade someone to buy a gift or take you out for dinner is a form of taking. And love also isn’t about sulking or pouting when you don’t get what you want.

Love is not finding Mr or Mrs Right. It’s not about there being one special person out there who will finally make you happy or ‘complete you’. Or that there is one person for everybody and as soon as they find that one person, everything will be wonderful.

Love is less about happy endings and more about hard work.

And love is certainly not deciding that you have found that special person and that nothing else matters. That’s selfishness. Prior commitments, the pain of other people. The idea that these don’t matter once you find someone you ‘love’ is just nonsense. So is this idea that nothing else matters except being with the one you love.

Sometimes love means having to let go.

So what is love then?

As someone who didn’t exactly make a success of marriage, I feel more qualified to speak about what love is not than I do about what love actually is. So I’ll leave it to someone far wiser than me to describe it.

1 Corinthian 13:4-10.

[4] Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;
[5] it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
[6] it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
[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 our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;
[10] but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.


  1. Hi Liz,
    I should be asleep by now but i have been thinking about your post ( and listening to the radio).
    All the flowers and balloons and all the other stuff that comes out on Valentine's Day just seems like all show and little substance to me. I find it kind of sad - and not because i didn't get anything.
    I remember, when i was young, there was a saying that was going round that went something like this:
    'if you love something, let it go. If it returns, it is yours. If it doesn't, it never was'
    Having failed at marriage myself I have thought a lot about what love means. Where did it go wrong? Why didn't it last? What could I have done? Was it not true love? Now, the answer to that is long and complex but I believe that love can survive, in its purest sense, even when a relationship ends. And it is this thing that will overcome the animosity that often accompanies the failure of a marriage. Which is why I think it is imperative that divorcing (and divorced) couples should strive to overcome their differences. The effort to do this can be torturous, I know. Oh, I know.

    They say 'it takes two to make it, one to break it' but each individual has the choice, at any moment, to succumb to negative feelings and behaviour or to act with clear conscience. And that means not using the bad behaviour of the other person as an excuse for your own - though I know how tempting this can be and how easy it is to fail.
    But I know, too, that it isn't possible to fully receive or to give the true love that emanates from the source - God - while you bear hatred towards even one other person.

    And any expression of love that is experienced in the physical realm can never be more than a faint approximation of the pure love that is God.

  2. Hi Teresa,

    Despite what I wrote, I actually like all the flowers and cards etc. One of my favourite things about Valentine's Day is walking around and seeing all the people who are holding flowers, either to give to someone else or because they've received them. I get a nice warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I see someone with flowers. I told my children once that one of the best jobs in the world would have to be a florist delivery driver. Because most people would be absolutely delighted to see you.

    However, I do think that these things are good, as long as we don't mistake them for love itself. But as soon as we start treating them as a sign of how much someone loves us, we've got it all wrong. And I particularly dislike the way that people are made to feel like they have to buy something for Valetine's Day for their loved one.

    We're turning into a society that judges love by the presents we buy and whether we meet our obligations to get something special on commercialised days.

    As for a marriage breaking down, my marriage doesn't really fit the standard 'boy and girl fall in love, get married and then fall out of love' scenario. But I don't want to talk about my marriage. So I won't comment on marriage breakdowns, because it's hard to do so without using personal experience.

    But I will say that love is complex. And we are the ones who make it complicated, by being so imperfect. Love comes from imperfect beings.

    To move away from romantic love and turn to parent-child love. I wrote once that the best thing about being raised in a loving family is not simply to teach a child that he or she is loved. But also to teach them that love is not always perfect. (At least when it comes from human beings.) People who love you occasionally stuff up. Some, more than others.

    And families also teach you that love is for life. No matter what happens, no matter what this person does to me or how they disappoint me, I will keep loving them. I may reach a stage one day when I am furious with them. I may not even want to talk to them. But I will still love them.

    I don't think love was ever meant to be a temporary thing. And maybe the fact that it's become temporary has more to do with how we think of love, rather than love itself.




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