I can’t think of any subject about which I both feel myself less qualified to speak and less able to fully understand than the subject of love. Sadly, love is—at least to me—one of those things about which one can say, “I may not be able to tell you what love is, but I can assuredly tell you what it is not.” And before we get off into, “Love is different for everyone.” Allow me to take a moment to talk about why that’s not the case.
I will readily acknowledge that, when one person uses a word, he or she is likely to mean something different than when another person uses the same word. What I am unwilling to accept, is that this is the way things ought to work. More correctly, the fact that I mean one thing when I use a word, and somebody else means another, should result in one of three things:
- I should strive to understand a definition that would clearly express what the other person means when they use a particular word. This is the least desirable of the three, since it only facilitates clear communication between me and typically, a single other person.
- I should clarify the definition of important terms through some mechanism; the more complete a mechanism, the better. This can be cumbersome and time consuming, and so, is the second best of the three.
- Society at large should work to use language as it was intended, which of course, first required that we work to understand how language was intended to be used. Though this is the most desirable, it is far and away, the hardest to attain. Since the definition of one word is likely to be built on other words which may be equally badly defined, it is likely that folks will come away with different meanings without a great deal of work.
Given the above, it seems to me that the most likely to be “successfully implemented,” is the second—though even the second option relies on people “taking away” the same things from a given definition. As such, I will attempt here, to give what I consider a reasonable “definition for” the word, “love.”
I’m entirely sure my “definition” will be called into question by others. I’m not only okay with that, but as far as I’m concerned, such social discourse is instrumental in coming to agreement about things. Now comes the hard part, defining love. I have sought to do something similar in lesser ways in prior posts (usually as a “sub-point” to some “more major” consideration for the article in question); let me see if I can “nail things down” somewhat here.
To begin with, allow me to make a distinction between the concept of “love” and the concept of “lust” that is appropriate in my view. Lust is based on chemical interactions in one person, typically when confronted with another person. It is largely, if not entirely physical in nature. When a man says, “I like or love women or men.” They’re typically taking in a superficial way, and one that largely encompasses the physical. You’ll often find that the person in question is drawn to a particular trait or set thereof as well. And if, over time, the person possessing that trait (or those traits) ceases to do so, the person who lusts after them is far less likely to be interested in them. They will often make excuses rather than admit the truth.
Now let’s talk for just a second about the word like. Just as with lust, a person who likes another person, will likely have transitive interest in that person. Put another way, if and when one person likes another, he or she may “fall out of like” with that person based on some quality he or she believes the other does or does not possess. This—equal to lust—is not love.
I would venture to say that the average person who is not a parent (and even many who are) has never experienced love. Allow me to try to illustrate the difference between love and other feelings or emotions from a parental perspective.
Each of my children has done one thing or another that would be a “deal-breaker” in most relationships at some point or other. They may have chosen to break with me over such things, but I have not chosen to break with them over them. You see, I love my children, and a part of that, is being unwilling to ever entirely “let go of” that child. They may not see that as being the case, but I promise you it is. That doesn’t mean we’re not often separated by a lot of space. It also doesn’t mean that I “force myself” upon my children. What it does mean though, is that I will never give up on, nor count my relationship with one of my children “over.”
As a younger man, I refused to accept that this was what love looked like. As a result, I got into more than one relationship that should have been “permanent” (inasmuch as any relationship can be), but where the relationship fell apart.
In pretty much every case, part of the “blame” was mine, and part the other person’s. Even so, since I can only be responsible for me, I take full responsibility in every case. I’m not saying I beat myself over the head with my responsibility, just that I recognize it.
I’m rapidly running out of space so allow me to take a moment to say just one more thing about love and what it isn’t. Love is not always giving the person you love what they think they want.
This is an important lesson learned at least in part from parenting. Children think they want things that may well have permanent, harmful consequences. As a parent, my refusal to give them what they want is often an outward manifestation of love, not the failure to love.
Okay, out of time and space. As usual, allow me to wish you good times, and thank you for reading.