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Love: A Definition
Love is perhaps the most talked-about, sought-after, and prized
experience in the world, but there has always been confusion about what love
truly is. Most people believe that love is something that just happens, that one
can't force love to be present if it is not somehow spontaneously present in a
relationship. Is this really true?
The Bible speaks a great deal about love--love not only for God, but also for
oneself and others. Perhaps the greatest discourse on love ever written is the
13th chapter of 1 Corinthians. It only takes 3 or 4 minutes to read this brief
passage, but the concepts could be studied for a lifetime.
Strangely enough to modern minds, this chapter does not say that one's
personality or worthiness should cause us to love him/her. Instead, love is
portrayed as an active choice rather than a passive feeling. Jesus said that we
are to love our neighbours as ourselves, and even to love our enemies. This
indicates that emotions--even love--can be created.
The Bible teaches that this happens as a deliberate choice. As we act lovingly,
we begin to feel the emotion of love. As we respond with patience, kindness,
without jealousy, or boasting, arrogance, or rudeness, without being irritable
or resentful, without rejoicing in someone else's mistakes, but all the time
rejoicing in what is right and good, with a sense of endurance in all things,
and never allowing those things we believe in to pass away, we are growing in
The Bible is not the only source for this concept of creating emotions. Many
psychologists agree. Harry Stack Sullivan said, "It is easier to act yourself
into a new way of feeling than to feel yourself into a new way of acting." If we
wait until we feel loving, kind, generous, or compassionate, we will never grow
beyond our own small prideful world of self-interest. But when we choose to act
like the kind of person we want to be, we find the emotions begin to follow.
This is not a hypocritical pretending to be something you are not. Instead, it
is deliberately setting aside the negative and self-centred feelings which keep
you from being your best self. Emotions, after all, are changeable and
unreliable. They may fuel actions, but they are unworthy as a basis for making
choices. Positive emotions grow out of positive attitudes and actions.
Without a doubt there are scores of complicating factors in any
relationship. There are elements over which we have no control. But we have to
start with the truth that no one else can give you love or happiness. Expecting
certain persons and/or situations to create happiness for you can only lead to
greater frustration. If you are to have a loving relationship with anyone, you
must build love within yourself by examining your attitudes and actions and then
giving that love freely to others. This includes learning to love yourself.
If we refuse to examine our own role in relationships and to focus on the
actions we can control, we will continue to be frustrated, not only in our
relationships but in life in general. But doing the things which nurture love
will produce positive changes and enable us to make wise choices that put us
more in control of our lives and the future.
Spiritual resources are important for a balanced approach to handling any
circumstance of life. In a relationship with God, people have the assurance that
God is with them always.