What Is Love?
The word is mostly used according to the first definition given in the dictionary: “an intense feeling of deep affection.” In other words, love is what one feels.
After years spent working with others, I think that definition is far from accurate of what we need to understand. Love should be seen not as a feeling but as an enacted emotion. To love is to feel and act lovingly. It’s action of the highest form.
Between human beings, love is a relational word. Yes, you can love things that do not love you back—the sky or a mountain or a painting or the game of chess. But the love of other people is directional. There is a lover and a beloved — you don’t just love, but you love at someone. Real love is not only about the feelings of the lover; it is not egotism. It is when one person believes in another person and shows it.
In Fiddler on the Roof, when Tevye asks Golde whether she loves him after a quarter century of marriage, her wry answer is exactly on point:
For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, Cooked your meals, cleaned the house Given you children and milked your cow. She asks then, “If that’s not love, what is?”
Of course it is possible to perform all sorts of duties for someone and feel little or nothing for them. Love is not about being hired help. Love is not an obligation done with a cold soul. But neither is it a passion that expresses itself in cruelty, or one that does not express itself at all. The feeling must be wedded to the deed.
We would have a healthier conception of love if we understood that love, like parenting or friendship, is much more than a feeling – It’s an emotion that expresses itself IN action. What we really feel is reflected in what we do. The deepest beauty of love is how it changes minds, perspectives and lives.
Peace and Love, Jim