Feb 202020 1 Response

The Lie We Believe About Love

For many, our definition of love is formed during our teenage years. Maybe for today’s junior high student, it’s a snap or a text, but in my day it was a phone call. At some point, you are on the phone with someone you are attracted to. You talk for hours. Finally, your parents make you hang up the phone. As you hang up, you feel something that seems so unique you assume no one has ever felt that before. You know that if your parents only understood what you were feeling, they would never ask you to hang up the phone. But of course, you assume they have no idea what is going through your body.

Of course, they are fully aware of the feeling. While it feels so unique, it is actually a near-universal feeling. Nearly everyone has that first experience of love and the overwhelming nature that it brings. Yet it’s during this time that we can form a false definition of love. Because the feeling comes upon us so strongly and seemingly out of nowhere, we assume that true love is a force that expresses itself as a feeling.

The Lie of Love

We often believe love is a force. We think it is out of our control. In this belief, love is something that comes upon us like the flu. We are exposed to it and then it begins to grow from within. We can’t stop it, control it, or direct it.  The only reason we are aware of love is that it expresses itself as a feeling. We feel love for someone and that is how we know that love is present. Everything becomes about the feeling. (See: A Litmus Test for His Love)

This mindset explains much of our thinking. It tells us why we feel the way we do as a teenager on the phone. It makes sense of our experience as we walk down the aisle and feel overwhelmed by our affection for our soon-to-be-spouse. In many ways, it even explains the moments after childbirth as your whole world changes because of the joy of the baby in your arms.

While love involves feelings, we are wrong to assume the feelings are the ultimate indicator of love.

When the Force Isn’t With You

The problem with believing that love is a force that expresses itself as a feeling is that while it explains moments of our lives, it doesn’t explain every moment. Feelings come and go. No couple is going to feel love for each other at every moment. No parent is going to be overwhelmed with love as they wake up for the fourth time that night to a crying newborn.

Feelings fade. When it does, what happens to our love? If love is a force that expresses itself in a feeling, when the feeling fades there is nothing we can do about it. We are helpless.

This is the way many people feel when their marriage struggles. They assume there is nothing they can do about it. Counseling seems pointless. Reading a book seems irrelevant. Changing behaviors seems fruitless. So they just continue down the road without any intervention. (See: I Never Loved You)

Sadly, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When the feeling is lost and nothing is done, the feeling rarely returns. This further confirms the idea that love is a force. We didn’t ask for it to show up and we didn’t ask for it to leave. We have no control.

The True Nature of Love

Thankfully, love isn’t a force that is beyond our control. Instead, love is a choice that expresses itself in action. We choose whether we love or not. We choose who we love or don’t. While feelings often accompany those choices, feelings tend to be fickle. You may not feel tomorrow what you feel today. Yet love is greater than a feeling. Because love is a choice we can continue to love through action even if we don’t feel it at the moment.

This confirms our experience. A new mom isn’t overwhelmed with the feeling of love at a midnight feeding, but she does it anyway. A husband may not feel overwhelmed with love when restraining his tongue during his first spat with his wife, but he restrains it anyway. An elderly woman may not feel loved every day as she walks into the nursing home to spend time with the husband who no longer recognizes her, but she goes anyway.

Love acts. It often feels, but not always. Yet it’s the action, not the feeling, which is the primary characteristic of love.

The Order of Actions and Feelings

When a relationship first begins, we often do the actions of love because we feel the feelings of love. In the honeymoon phase of marriage, we feel then act. Yet as a marriage matures, the order is often reversed. In a mature marriage, a couple carries out the actions of love knowing that feelings will often follow. (See: 20 Ways to Kill Your Relationship)

To some, this seems sad. They don’t want to hear that feelings fade. The reality is that this is great hope. If love is a force, there is nothing we can do about it. Don’t feel love for your spouse anymore? Sorry. You are hopeless. But because love is a choice and feelings often follow actions, we have a great deal of control. Don’t feel love for your spouse anymore? Love them anyway. Keep doing the actions of love and if you do, the feelings will likely return.

Many people feel powerless in their relationship because they have believed a lie regarding the definition of love. Love is not a force expressed in a feeling. Love is a choice expressed in action.

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