Can love be truly defined? The Urban dictionary describes love as following and in more detail;
The most spectacular, indescribable, deep euphoric feeling for someone. Love is an incredibly powerful word. When you’re in love, you always want to be together, and when you are not, you’re thinking about being together because you need that person and without them your life is incomplete. Interesting!
Love, love is what we make it said Kenny Rogers
The late Whitney Houston in her song ‘I’ll Always Love You’
reminds us of the complexities of love and that it’s not always for keeps; not only that, it is not always reciprocated.
A friend of mine recently enlightened me in his blog entitled ‘going out to bat’.It states;
“I am going out to BAT for you.” A very English phrase…
When you go out to bat for someone it is often coined as if you are batting for your team and or your country in the truest sense from a cricketing perspective.
The above phrase is also used as an act of camaraderie, where you feel beholden to go fight for those you love or care for. When it is not reciprocate, and you left naked beware…
The passage that seeks to define love and which we fall short of as in the Proverbs 31 woman is in 1 Corinthians 13: 3 -7 and I’ll quote the message version ‘The Way of Love’.
Love never gives up
Love cares more for others than self
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have
Love doesn’t strut
Doesn’t have a swell head
Doesn’t force itself on others
Isn’t always “me first”
Doesn’t fly off the handle
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others
Doesn’t revel when others grovel
Takes pleasure in the flowering of the truth
Puts up with anything
Trusts God always
Always looks for the best
Never look back
But keeps going to the end.
CS Lewis in his book ‘The Four Loves’ explores the nature of love from a Christian and philosophical perspective and categorise love into four groupings Eros, Charity, Affection and Friendship. I won’t elaborate on this, go and get the book.
Ancient Greek also has four distinct words for love. Agape, Eros, Philia and Storge.
Agape –is love in a spiritual sense as describe in 1 Corinthians 13. It often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of unconditional love for someone.
Eros – is selfless love. It gives and expects nothing in return, a physical and passionate love with sensual desires and longing. It is romantic, pure emotion without the balance of logic. “Love at first sight.”
Philia – is the love of friendship, an affective regards for someone and can be applied to daily relationships. It’s what is described as platonic love – without physical attraction yet appreciating the beauty in a person. This type of love can give and take, it is loyal, dispassionate and virtuous.
Storge – is the natural affection felt by parents to offspring. It expresses mere acceptance and putting up with situations.
In any relationship either party may be experiencing the same or any of the four forms of love and this is where it becomes complicated. One can be experiencing a selfless, sensual desire (Eros) while the other could be experiencing an affective regard (Philia)
To make matters worse, how we experience love can also be categorise into Love Languages.
Dr. Gary Chapman, Christian Counsellor and author of ‘The Five Love Languages’ writes about the importance of being able to express love to your partner in a way that your partner can understand. He calls this type of communicating using the five love languages.
Chapman’s five emotional love languages are;
- Words of Affirmation – when you say nice things to each other. Oh! You look nice; you’re dinner taste good, these words help to build your partner’s self- image and confidence.
- Quality Time – being and spending time together is one of the best ways to show love. Turning off the TV and giving one another undivided attention.
- Gifts – giving gifts doesn’t have to be expensive to send a message of love. Forgetting birthdays or never giving gifts to someone who truly enjoys them will cause a sense of neglect and feeling unloved.
- Acts of Service – doing something for your partner like vacuuming, doing repairs around the home. This will need to be done with joy and enthusiasm to be perceived as a gift of love.
- Physical touch – stroking, holding hands, even kissing in public (which some hate) will fulfil this need.
Dr Chapman suggests ways to discover your own love language by asking yourself these 3 questions;
- How do I express love to others?
- What do I complain most about
- What do I request more often?
The issue is not only about discovering your own love language but being able to able to demonstrate (speak) your partner’s love language which may not be natural to you but according to Dr Chapman “We are not talking about comfort, we’re talking love.” Love is something we do for someone else. So often two people love each other but aren’t connecting. Sincerity is not enough. This suggests that love needs to be worked at. Sounds tedious?
Love says Chapman is the second highest emotional experience that people reported, the first reported as feeling the presence of God. Chapman also states “There’s not much difference being in love and insane” Falling in love can render one mentally incompetent.
Well, after this statement, I am beginning to feel normal!
Interestingly, the emotional high of being in love lasts around 2 years. If that is the case how can we qualify a feeling that lasts for 12 years? After the first two it is said that the love tingle starts to fade. The love tank is empty and it’s in expressing each other’s love language that we are able to fill their love tanks.
How is your love tank? What can we do to fill it?
A tank check is recommended by Chapman 3 times per week for 3 weeks, and then he suggests doing it to the best of your ability.
Unhappiness in relationships often has a simple root cause i.e. we speak different ‘love languages’. And this can be traced back to childhood i.e. how you first experienced love from your nurturers. Was it in gifts, words of encouragement, acts of service, physical tough or in sharing quality time?
A friend of mine loathe the idea of being hugged and you can tell from her reaction if you tried to hug her – basically it is like hugging a wall and you would be left feeling that she doesn’t like you. But this is not the case; physical touch is not her love language. This scenario could be related to others who experience love in a different love language.
What a palaver?
Here are the things said of love and which I most value…
Love displays confidence and courage in the face of difficulty – seeing them in a positive rather than negative term. It perseveres with a purpose and tends not to run away, hide or dismiss. Love always takes time – like the physical transition from childhood to maturity, it doesn’t happens automatically and requires working at it.
To truly love we need to take an example from Christ. Cerebral sophistication is no substitute for practical love. Demonstrated love is practical application to those around us – loving as Christ loves us.
Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, during his talk at a John Main seminar states;
“When you love someone you allow them to reveal who they are in their own time”. I found this statement quite profound as it encourages giving each other space and time to be. We in our human nature tend to rush into relationships. We want it now especially with the fast-paced culture we live in coupled with the added fear of our clock ticking away syndrome. In saying that, there is no purpose in hanging around waiting for what will not be. It is important to learn when to let go and move on.
Love is about being vulnerable, knowing your partner is accepting of these vulnerabilities – feeling safe to express your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Vulnerability is power! – I have been told and slowly accepting. I’m reminded of 2 Cor. 12:9 …Power is made perfect in weakness.
Love in society’s definition often carries a highly emotional and sentimental content which distorts our view of love which originates from God. God as love express his being in strong dynamic and practical ways (John 3:16). If love is a masquerade then the cross is a masquerade. Since all love has its source in God, love is not just the language of earth it is the language of heaven and the kingdom of God. Fr. Timothy describes God’s love as Eros (selfless and passionate) meeting Agape (spiritual and unconditional). This he said is easy for God because he is God but we as humans struggle with this concept and experience either one or the other. Even with its divine nature human love is subjected to the frailties of human nature and at times is found wanting.
Here are some more of my favourite sayings about love.
Love hopes all things – it is not eternally optimistic or offering unreasoning optimism – it makes a careful note of reality and puts it into perspective (Romans 8:18-39)
Love never gives up because it never lost faith. It is always ready to believe the best (John 21: 15-19)
There is nothing love cannot face. Love reveals an awareness of human frailties and make appropriate allowances for them (Psalm 130:3)
Love does not make a name for itself at the expense of others (2 Cor. 8:9)
Love gives up for the sake of others the very thing to which it is entitled (Phil.2: 5 – 8)
Love is unconquerable, having an enduring quality that will survive every attempt to crush it. It will never end!
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned. (Songs of Songs 8:7)
Mine is an unchanging love
higher than the heights above
deeper than the depths beneath
free and faithful, strong as death
Lord it is my chief complaint
that my love is weak & faint
Yet I love thee and adore
O for grace to love the (*and others) more
Hark my soul – William Couper – of God’s Love (*my addition)
Love is eternal… Love never ends….Love produces love.