It has been said that "he who controls the language controls the narrative." No words have ever been truer. Words are extremely important.
For instance, Nordic or "Eskimo" languages contain as many as one hundred and eighty different words for SNOW. One hundred and eighty!!! Why? Because no two snowflakes are alike and the Eskimos have so much of it, they want to do their best to provide the clearest understanding possible.
So, when it comes to love why does the English language only have one word? Loving is our favorite thing to do!! As such, we struggle to convey what kind of love we have when we tell someone "I love you." I am certain the love I have for this new Coach purse is way different than the love I have for the infant I just birthed and even that from the love I have of my nation. You get the point. So, what, then, is love?
Let me begin by telling you what love is NOT.
Love is 100% unquestionably NOT a feeling. Want me to prove it? Think of the person you love absolutely most in your life right now. Picture his or her face. What feelings are you feeling when you think of them? Now, I'd like you to picture that person hauling off and punching you right smack in the face. What are your feelings now? I'll bet they're significantly different from the loving feelings you felt just a moment ago. So, what happened? Did you stop loving that person? Perhaps. Perhaps all it took for you to stop loving was that singular incident. So then is love a feeling?
No. Love is an action.
Feelings are simply a result of actions. I feel good when I experience good actions and I feel bad when I experience or witness bad actions. Love is something I DO. I can be kind to you, or patient with you. I can keep a catalogue of all the wrongs you've committed (not love) or I can choose to forget them, move on and forgive (love). Love is shoveling the snow of your next-door neighbor even though you know he is young, strong and perfectly capable of doing it himself. Love shovels it anyway. Loving like this may produce good feelings for you deep down inside but it may produce uncomfortable or even angry feelings in the neighbor if he’s wondering why the heck you shoveled his snow or mowed his lawn “What’s he trying to prove? That he’s better than me? Does he have some kind of agenda?” Regardless of his feelings, the act of shoveling for him was love (assuming your intentions were pure).
Taking this understanding further, consider the English phrase “to fall into and out of” love.
A fall is nearly always accidental. One is powerless over it and thus we are powerless over the consequences as well – a scraped knee, a broken wrist, etc. We are absolved of responsibility because the action was not by choice. As such, the idea that we “fall into love” with someone conveys that we had no choice and that we couldn’t control the subsequent feelings. Oh, how wrong we are.
Imagine you’re looking at a completely unknown (to you) human being. He or she may be good looking and you take notice but do you love that person? No. What causes you to have feelings for him/her? I’m not talking about sexual attraction. I’m talking about the “I will you good and want to spend time with you” kind of thoughts and feelings. You make a choice. You either talk to that person or not. The conversation will cause good or bad feelings. You either spend time with that person or not. The activities you do together will produce either good or bad feelings (we go fishing together versus robbing a bank together). Each of those activities will produce a different and powerful feeling. So, despite the fact that it seemed effortless and relatively immediate, loving that person was certainly not accidental. You did not fall into it. You made it happen.
Now be careful before you attack me because I am quite aware that love is a lot more nuanced, but this was written to get you to step back and really consider your decisions “to love” those around you. Are you spending more time with them or more time at work? Are you serving them their plate or are you expecting them to serve themselves? Are you listening when you’d rather talk? What are all of these examples of? Love. Love. Love.
So that’s it. Love is actually pretty simple…in theory. Putting it into practice is where we struggle. So, for starters, I’d like you to practice loving that spouse you said you no longer love or no longer have feelings for. I get that. I had nothing but bad feelings for my husband for many years. But that’s because the words and actions that took place between us were very unloving. So, we changed them. Over time we said more kind things to each other and less ugly things and that produced loving feelings. What about you? Have you convinced yourself that you “love” someone you’re not married to because you have these incredibly strong feelings for him or her? That’s not love. Do you “love” this person more than you “love” your spouse? If so, then stop it. Stop “loving” that person more. Start “loving” (both verbs) your spouse again: talk lovingly, share your heart, spend time together, pray together, go to Mass/church together. You get the picture. Don't worry. The feelings will one day follow.
Now get to work. I never said it would be easy but I PROMISE you that if you begin “to love” your spouse with actions that would make Christ smile, then the feelings will come back. It may take time and your spouse may fight your attempts but that, too, is love—being loving for the sake of Christine, the One who IS love. Don’t believe me? Don’t know how? Don’t have the emotional energy? Give me a call. I can help. It’s what I do. I’d be honored to help.