Without love we are nothing, we can’t express our joy, peace is missing, we lose our patience, trust is thrown out, we become selfish, self-seeking, and rude. Love is the chief of all emotions and the root of all our emotions, for good or bad. I want to find the expert on this emotion and study and learn from them. What do they have to tell us about this chief emotion? Can they teach us how to love more?
So who is the expert on love? If I honestly answer this question, I have two answers: Jesus and each of us. Here is what I mean, if God so loved the world (us) that He would send His Son to die for us, taking the punishment for our sins (moral failures and mistakes), because of His unbelievable deep love for us, God qualifies for the title. Now the second one (you and me), this is a bit harder to unpack, but let me try.
There are many that will claim to be the love expert, but ultimately you are the one that knows your heart and intentions, and you make the decisions on how you will act and treat others. No amount of books, mushy talks, love stories, and boyfriends or girlfriends can force you to show love. Love is an action, it is a choice we make. We are the only ones that can become experts at expressing and using our love as a verb. The great thing about love is, we can get better at it!
Every decision about the love you express comes from you, no one else can make you do it. You choose daily to express love or to withhold love. Here is the definition I am working from:
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. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
Love here is personified and can take action or resists taking action. For the sake of comparison, here is Merriam-Webster’s definition of love: a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person; attraction that includes sexual desire; the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship.
While this definition is accurate to the feeling of love, the above verses are accurate to the carrying out of love, the actions needed to express love. Let’s dive in here and see how this definition affects you and me.
Love is patient: In what ways have you and have you not shown patience to your spouse, children, friends, neighbor, the stranger in line with you? Jesus patiently endured the cross for us, what are we not enduring.
Love is kind: How many times a day do you encourage your family, friends, coworkers? How can you be kind to someone today?
Love does not envy: Envy would be the opposite of contentment. Are you content with little? Are you content with much?
“Contentment is the only true wealth” – Alfred Nobel
Are there things others have that you want? I find my envy flares when I spend too much time on Facebook or do too much comparing of myself and family to others. What causes you to become envious of others?
Love does not boast and is not proud: There is a great management practice of giving credit as much as possible to others. I see this in much the same way, crediting the love we have to those who have loved us and supported us, and given us the capacity to love others more and more. How have you been supported by love? Who has taught you to love others? Who deserves the most credit in your life for showing you love?
Similar to boasting, a love that is not proud is not “puffed up” this kind of love is a humble, selfless, and sacrificial love. Recently, I heard a powerful question about one’s willingness to sacrifice and show love. The question: Would you be willing to die for your wife, to step in and take her place? My answer, without hesitation, is yes. How about you? Would you be willing to die for your spouse, a child, friend? Love that is not proud is love that is not about self. Love that is not proud is demonstrated by thinking about yourself, less.
It does not dishonor others and is not self-seeking: A genuine love honors people, regardless of position, appearance, or status, and loves them with no intention of selfish gain. I find this portion of the verses to be the most challenging. The way I look at this is similar Stephen Covey’s habit of Seek First to Understand then be understood. If I seek to understand first, my selfish intentions will be pushed aside.
It is not easily angered and keeps no records of wrongs: You know I struggle with this one if you’ve heard my video game stories! Even if I am angry at an inanimate object, I am not demonstrating patience, kindness, humility, etc. In my life when I show anger in a relationship, I am demonstrating the opposite of the first part of this “definition” of love – being patient.
Dealing with wrongs: Do you have an inventory of the things people have done wrong to you? Do you think this will help you to forgive them and love these people, or will it hinder you? Having an inventory of the wrongs committed against you is like carrying burning hot coals with you every time you interact with that person or those people or that company. Unfortunately, you are the one that usually gets burned by this unforgiveness.
If you do struggle, this may be counterintuitive, create a list of wrongs and write them out on paper, then burn them up. Really, literally create a list and burn it up and in the process forgive and release the person from the wrong they have done.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you” – Lewis B. Smedes
Who do you need to forgive? Do you need to forgive yourself? Release your list, give it up, I promise you your life will be different.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: Real love desires truth and seeks truth, it is not pleased by evil or lies and misleading. Real love chooses truth even when telling the truth is difficult. Do you find it difficult to tell the truth? To trust people?
[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. A love that matters is willing to lay down one’s life for another, it is willing to extend trust and look for the best in others and situations, and this type of love never gives up. The most amazing thing about this verse is that Jesus is the perfect example of this love.
An example of this type of love in my life came from an experience I had the day my daughter, Annaliese, was born. After several hours of waiting on my part and several hours of sweat, tears, and pain on my wife’s part, Annaliese came into our world a happy and healthy baby. This sweet child immediately opened my eyes to how much you can love someone, she didn’t do anything to receive my love and she can’t do anything to lose my love.
My hope is the love I have for my children and my wife will be a reflection of following the verses above, and hopefully I can carry this type of love into all my relationships. This is my hope and prayer for you as well.
What do you find difficult and most exciting about this definition of love? Do you struggle to forgive? Does a love like this inspire you? Who can you love in this way? Have you been loved this way?