I have been doing a little self-reflection lately. Normally I steer clear of getting too introspective because let’s be honest, you can get lost in there. But I do think it is important and valuable to take an objective look at yourself from time to time, because if you haven’t looked in the mirror in a while, your reflection may surprise you.
While reading and reflecting the other day, I came across 4 small words that when strung together, forced me to stop everything I was doing and just sit in silence as they sunk into the chambers of my otherwise distracted thoughts. Realizing that I had been staring at the wall for at least 20 minutes, I snapped myself out of it and finished the last 2 pages of the chapter, before going about the rest of my day. But those 4 words continued to echo in my mind…
“Love is a verb.”
Ok, ok, it’s not particularly groundbreaking, and most people would skim right on passed it, but to me, those words carried with them the beginning of a new paradigm.
So often we love because we are expecting to get something in return. We love when it feels good; when we are showed kindness, honesty or forgiveness. We love because we deem someone worthy of receiving our love. We love people who are like us, people who have similar religious or political views as us. We love those who love us.
But what about those who don’t? What about when it isn’t easy, or when someone doesn’t fit our definition of worthy? What about when we have been hurt or rejected? What about when the feeling of love isn’t there or has diminished significantly? What about Democrats? What about Republicans? What about poor people who “abuse the system.” What about rich people who don’t care about poor people? What about that jerk who just cut me off because he was on his cell phone? What about ISIS?!
We have been conditioned to believe that love is only a feeling. I’m not suggesting that love isn’t about feelings, but I am suggesting that maybe there’s more to it than that.
When I was engaged to my husband, I was afraid. I was afraid of commitment, afraid of rejection, afraid of making the wrong choice. That fear kept me from feeling those rainbows and butterflies that you are “supposed to feel” when you are in love. That fear completely paralyzed me and almost destroyed our relationship in the process. I sought the counsel of a trusted friend and mentor who reminded me that love isn’t always about how you feel in a moment. Love is a daily choice and continual actions of sacrifice. Now happily married, I can confidently say that I love my husband more now than I did then, and I will love him more in 10 years than I do today. Why? Because love is a verb, and if we continue to demonstrate it by our actions towards each other, it will continue to grow.
Our culture has done us all a huge disservice by ingraining in us that love is measured by how we feel. The problem with that equation is that the focus is on you. When we measure love by our feelings, the problems in our workplaces, our marriages, our schools, and our world will always be someone else’s fault.
True love is self-sacrificing, not self-glorifying. Can you imagine if the hallmark of our culture was sacrificial love? What if we stopped blaming other people and focused our attention on ourselves, and how well we love?
I’m not sure anyone has said it better than Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. Here is a portion of his letter as translated by The Message:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled 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 truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
What a beautiful picture of what love in action should look like. We are all fighting to be heard, to be noticed and to be valued, but maybe the answer will come when we begin to hear, to notice and to value others more than ourselves.