Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in the year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post let’s define the word “love.” Think we can do it?
From movies to music to everyday conversation, we sure do use this word a lot. “I luv me some pickle juice!” … “I love this movie!” …. “Baby, I love you!” Really? How much? The word itself doesn’t convey depth, does it? It’s why we gals love to ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you love me?”
Of course, the bigger question is whether two people share the same definition. Most definitions of “love” make for catchy song lyrics or quotable movie lines. But do they hold up in real life? One definition that definitely doesn’t ring true: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Say, what?
“Love Is Sex!”
If you and I don’t correctly define love, how will we know if we are in love? If we don’t use the correct definition, how will we know when others are giving us a shallow imitation? If we don’t apply the true definition to our life, we won’t be able to establish healthy boundaries that keep us out of harm’s way. The reality: “I love you” is too often uttered by one person to manipulate another.
“If you love me, you’ll … (x, y, z).” Has anyone used this line on you? Worse, have you used it on someone yourself?
Girls often hear this line from guys wanting sex. I hate these stats, but here’s a hard truth: In the U.S., young people (age 15-24) have five times the reported rate of chlamydia of the total population, four times the rate of gonorrhea and three times the rate of syphilis. Why? Because our kids have bought into society’s lie that “love” includes casual sex.
When I was in high school, sleeping around wasn’t the accepted norm that it is today. Sure, some of the guys I went out with tried to talk me into it. But I didn’t have to deal with the daily societal pressure that young girls now face. While it did sting to be called a “goodie two-shoes,” I didn’t actually mind the reputation. Because it showed that I knew my worth. Now, as a dating adult, I am not in the least surprised when even Christian men tell me that I am being “totally unrealistic” to expect any man to delay sex until marriage. Really? Why is that?
When temptation beckons, it can feel hard to live within God’s parameters. But God set His guidelines to help us avoid unnecessary drama and pain. And He promises us that if we live within His standards, He will bless us with our best life. (Gals, listen up: a man who isn’t seeking after God’s standard in his sex life probably isn’t aiming for it in other areas of his life, either. Is that really the man for you?)
“Love Is a Feeling!”
Actually, love is so much more. Sure, we experience warm and fuzzy affection for people we like and want to be around. But feelings aren’t trustworthy. Because they’re based on our selfish nature. We love someone one day, and the next we don’t. Right? We decide to help someone one day, but opt out on other days because we’re not “feeling it.” Right? It’s often about who we deem “worthy” of our love. Been there, done that!
In this 1959 interview, “intellectual” Ayn Rand, the author of a widely circulated novel called Atlas Shrugged, shared the basic tenets of a new philosophy she labeled “objectivism.” Rand put forth that our morality must be based entirely on reason and logic, not on “faith or whim.” Man’s highest moral purpose, she asserted, was his own selfish happiness — that it’s not our personal responsibility to care about or “love” anyone we don’t deem “worthy.”
“Man is entitled to his own happiness and he must achieve it himself, but he cannot demand that others give up their lives to make him happy. Nor should he wish to sacrifice himself for the happiness of others,” added Rand. “If a man wants love, he should correct his weaknesses and flaws and he may deserve it, but he cannot expect the unearned. Neither in love or money.” Rand’s kicker: that so very few people are “worthy” of love (whatever she means by the word), “but they can work to deserve it, and that is all my morality allows.”
YOWZA! What a tit-for-tat, self-focused, calculated world Rand suggests we live in. Oh, wait. Aren’t we already feeling the effects of her philosophy in our modern world?
Jesus Proved Otherwise
Aren’t you and I so very, very fortunate that God doesn’t hold a similar view of our worthiness? That we don’t have to let others determine it, because God demonstrated how much value He sees in us when He came to earth in human form to serve and die for all of mankind?
God repeatedly tells us to have love — not our personal “happiness,” as Rand suggests — be our aim. To love Him, and then our neighbor as ourself. Yup: we are to give to the high standard we’d like to receive. Loving ourselves is key; we can’t give what we don’t have. Not with a narcissistic kind of love, mind you, but the healthy love that says, “Because I am so freely loved by the Creator, despite my flaws and weaknesses, I can freely share it!”
Rand’s website uses the spin that “selfishness” is a grand thing, as it frees us from constraints that hinder our achieving greatness. But God says that selfless love is the benchmark of greatness. Want to feel great? Go do something nice for someone, no strings attached.
We are to care about — within healthy, appropriate boundaries — the wants and needs of others, and not just those we expect to return the favor. God asks us to be willing to be used by Him. In Rand’s words, to serve as an “sacrificial animal” — which Rand asserts is beneath our dignity.
The Bible tells us that love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
True love’s motivation is always to protect and provide for another. Love is not a feeling, but an action. It is not a gaining, but a giving. Once we correctly define what real love looks like, we can appropriately give — and receive — it.
This week, really look at how and when you use the words, “I love you.” Do your actions and your words match?
In our next blog post, let’s look at Josh’s 4 practical parenting principals to build strong relationships with your kids.
Catch up: The introductory post to this series.