Straight-Up: It’s All About Love, But It’s Not What You Think.

Part Four of a Straight-Up Conversation With Young People

By Jennifer Hartline Published on May 28, 2017

[Editor’s note: This is part four of Jennifer’s Straight-Up series. Be sure to read parts one, two and three, if you missed them.]

Such a sweet little word, love. Used every day, by just about every person on the planet, in some way. I love chocolate. I love coffee. I love that dress, those flowers, that song, etc. And of course, I love my husband and my children.

So does love really have so many different meanings? Is it merely affection for something or someone, or a preference for something? Is it an attraction to something or someone? Is love always about good feelings, excitement, pleasure and satisfaction?

If you’ve taken your cues from Hollywood, then you’re probably inclined to say yes, love should always bring with it those wonderful feelings, the thrill and excitement, and the attraction. The flip side of love, as the sad songs tell us, is heartbreak, loneliness, pain and bitterness.

If that’s what you know, then you don’t know love.

What’s Love Really About?

Love is an act of the will. Love is not a passive thing that happens to you. Love is always something concrete that you do.

The present Age of Feelings would have you believe that love is about feelings; indeed, that love is a feeling. So let’s dispense with that nonsense right now.

Love is a choice. Love is not a feeling.

You feel compelled to get a tattoo? Put that on your arm: Love is a Choice, not a Feeling. Make it big and bold, not scripty and flowery, cause this is serious.

This is me (lovingly!) pounding this fact into your head: Love is a Choice. Not a Feeling.

Love often does bring with it those wonderful, powerful feelings — and that’s something to cherish and enjoy. But feelings can also be fickle and fleeting. Real love is neither.

Love is a Choice

Love is an act of the will. Love is not a passive thing that happens to you. Love is always something concrete that you do.

Love is selfless. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or rude. Love is not arrogant. Love is not irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things. Love never fails.

(Did you notice that all the things love is not are feelings, and all the things love is are deliberate acts?)

Love is commitment. Love is sacrifice. Love will require something of you; perhaps more than you may want to give.

You can love someone you don’t like. You can love a person who irritates the snot out of you. You can love someone who has hurt you badly. When Jesus told us to love our enemies, He certainly didn’t mean we had to have affectionate feelings toward them. (He also didn’t mean we had to agree with their choices, applaud their actions, or remain “neutral” about things.)

If you try to live your life being totally directed by your feelings, you will be perpetually dissatisfied.

You can love someone in precisely the same moment that you feel like smacking them upside the head. (Don’t smack people!) You can choose to love even when all the romantic feelings are gone. You can choose to love when you’re exhausted or angry.

Listen to Thomas Aquinas: “Love is willing the good of the other, as other.” That means willing (choosing!) what is truly good for the other person, strictly for their own sake. Not because it’s good for you. That also means if it’s not good for that person, or simply not good, it would not be love to want it for them, no matter how badly they may want it. If it’s not good, it would not be love for anyone else to want it for you.

I’m speaking of objective good here. Just because something makes you feel good doesn’t mean it’s good for you. The fact that a person may strongly desire something doesn’t mean it’s automatically good, or that they are entitled to have it. Again, there is objective moral good. If it contradicts the natural and moral law, then — by definition — it is not good.

Love is Not a Feeling

This concept runs entirely opposite to everything the culture is currently telling you. I realize that. The tyranny of Feelings says that you should be able to have and do everything that makes you feel good, makes you happy, satisfies your desires — and no one should be able to tell you no. What’s right for you, and all that.

The culture is wrong. If you try to live your life being totally directed by your feelings, you will be perpetually dissatisfied. You won’t be happy, and you’ll likely inflict damage on other people as well. If you expect love to always be easy, to always feel wonderful, and to satisfy all your wants, then you are practically guaranteed a life of discontentment.

Don’t spend your life chasing after feelings. Pursue love instead. Life really is all about love.

How can I guarantee this? Because Love is a choice. Love is not a feeling.

When you choose to love, especially when it’s contrary to your feelings, love will transform you along the way. When you make the painful sacrifices of love, you’ll be changed for the better. You’ll find you have solid rock beneath your feet — when everything else is constantly shifting.

Ultimately, the greatest expression of love is a Cross. Greater love hath no man than this — to lay down his life for a friend. That is why we can trust, beyond any shadow of any doubt, the love of God for us. Jesus gave His life for us while we were God’s enemies, not friends. Jesus did that because He is love Incarnate, meaning in the flesh. He, Himself, is Love. It is because He loves us that we are able to love.

Don’t spend your life chasing after feelings. Pursue love instead. Life really is all about love.

Today’s parting thought:

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance;
to seek Him the greatest adventure;
to find Him, the greatest human achievement.”
— St. Augustine

(**Now hear this: Love does not require you to endure abuse — physical, sexual, emotional or any other kind. Love does not mean you must allow yourself to be harmed.

Ladies, you especially please hear me: Your “love” isn’t going to change an abusive guy into a prince. He’s not a poor, misunderstood soul who just needs someone to believe in him and stand by him. Real men don’t hurt women. Real men don’t emotionally manipulate women. Real men don’t threaten, and they aren’t control-freaks. Real men use their strength to protect, not to intimidate. He doesn’t love you if he’s treating you this way. Don’t believe a word he says! This is not love! (Remember Aquinas’s definition above!) You must wise up. You must use your head to guard your heart and your life.)

 

This is part four of Jennifer’s Straight-Up series. Stay tuned for future installments.

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