Monday, August 1, 2011

Love and In Love: the desire to love

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the difference between love and the desire to love. Love, as you know, is commanded in the Bible and yet, we often think of it as a feeling. So, I thought that the best way to describe this is that there is love and there is the desire to love. Most people, when they talk about love, they’re really talking about the desire to love and to be loved. To use more familiar terminology, they are talking about being in love.

Let me give you an example. A young man has met a young woman. He calls her on the phone. He sends her flowers. He takes her to a nice restaurant. But does he love her? Let’s try another one. A woman is in the nursing home and seldom remembers what has happened five minutes ago, but a younger woman comes to see her two or three times a week. She makes sure the nurses are taking care of her. She combs her hair. She spends time talking to her, even though she knows the woman will tell other people that she was never there. Does she love her?

In both cases, I think you will agree that they love the other person. We have no doubt. But notice what is missing. There is no mention of the feelings of the person. We might make some assumptions about why they would do what they do, but there is no mention of feelings.

What that tells me is that love is independent of the feeling. I very much doubt a person will continue these things and not develop some kind of felt attachment to the other person, but love is there without the feeling. In the second example, the act of love the woman shows may be tiresome and painful for her, but there is love.

How different that is from someone who is “in love.” The person who is in love may do loving things, but it is a result of some feeling. Where that feeling comes from—who knows? When that feeling goes away, so does the loving action.

I think some people miss the point when we say that love is a choice. They assume that we mean that we can choose to feel a certain way. What we need to grasp is that love is a choice because we have the choice to do loving things for people or not. If we choose to love someone, we will do things to show our love for them. We may not always feel love toward them. It may be painful at times to love them, but we can keep on loving people, even when we don’t want to. But give it time. If you keep doing things that show love, you will eventually gain the feeling of love.