How do you describe love?

Ask ten people and you will get 10 different answers to this question about love. They will range from:

  • A feeling
  • Something deep and mysterious
  • An emotion
  • Actions you do
  • A place that can be painful and you need to guard
  • Lost it, long for, and must have it

But most would agree LOVE IS certainly profound, multifaceted and mysterious.

LOVE’S ASSOCIATIONS WITH FEELINGS

As a counselor, I see love mainly through the actions in how we treat others in relationships, and also the words we use to show others value and importance. Now love itself may not be a feeling; but there are certainly many feelings that are associated from being treated with these kinds of  actions and words. Generally when we meet someone and fall in love, we enjoy quality time and have fun with them. We will usually have a great deal of conversation with them.  Often, we show affection, buy and give gifts and say affirming, validating things. There’s sacrifice of our time, money, other relationships and energy for this person. We are caring and kind.

Much of the feelings we have of love for another person are based on our interpretation of the caring behaviors and effort they show toward us. They ‘meet our needs’ so to speak. In fact, psychological principles show that when we say we are “falling out of love” it is really our perception of our partner’s lack of willingness or ability to meet our needs. So, our partners behaviors and words strongly impact our feelings of being loved (Friesen & Friesen 1989).

Love is the beauty of the soul.” Augustine of Hippo

When both positive loving actions stop or slow down, and negative interactions increase, our sense of being in love is diminished-we begin to “fall out of love.” According to Willard Harley there are five types of behaviors, or Love Busters that can have a negative effect on your love:

 Five Love Busting Behaviors

  • Angry outbursts
  • Disrespectful judgments
  • Annoying behavior
  • Selfish demands
  • Dishonesty

However, there are also actions that build the “love bank” or the “emotional tank.”

Eight Love Building Behaviors

  • Honest, safe conversations
  • Vulnerability
  • Sharing fondness and admiration
  • Compassion and empathy
  • Affection and touch
  • Apologizing and forgiveness
  • Expressing appreciation and gratitude
  • Honoring differences

Feelings are tied to behavior

So when we do the behaviors of love, our feelings of love and closeness can increase.  While loving behaviors can increase closeness, the opposite is also true.  Those Love BUSTING Behaviors put up walls and divide relationships. We desire closeness and intimacy, but disconnect and drive our loved ones away with ‘Busting Behaviors’ instead.

I believe, and my experience shows, that love is not as much a feeling as it is a choice. Our feelings can easily get us in trouble. We feel like staying in bed, eating that second piece of cake or buying a new car we don’t need. We don’t feel like going to the gym, making that call or contact, making a budget or completing the task our spouse has asked us to do.

Most of the time when we don’t feel like it, the ironic result is that the action is necessary for our good, or it is the right thing to do. It’s about making the determined decision and choice to take the action. And usually it takes courage to do the hard thing, the right thing.

The love God shows to us is not based on a feeling, but a choice: to love the unlovable and to give us what we need. This is the character and attitude of love and the one we should emulate. Love: gives, cares, acts, forgives, shows respect, empathizes, sacrifices, serves, looks to please, is others focused and builds others up.

Maybe Jacob Boehme said it both as simply and with as much insight as it can be put: “Love transcends all that human sense and reason can reach to.”

Make the choice to show love by your actions and your words!

Take the Love Behavior Challenge

Insert your name into each phrase and see if you agree or disagree with the statement.

_(your name)_  is patient,

_______ is kind,

_______ does not envy,

_______ does not boast,

_______ is not proud,

_______ not rude,

_______ is not self-seeking,

_______ not easily angered,

_______ keeps no record of wrongs,

_______ isn’t glad when bad things happen but is happy with the truth,

_______ always protects,

_______ trusts,

_______ always hopes,

_______ perseveres,

_______ never fails.

(1 Corinth. 13:4-8)

So how did you do on the Quiz above? What improvements could you make today in your Love Behavior?

First of all, this is not meant as a judgement on your character or to condemn your past actions.  This is really a great way to check behavior and see if your actions are what you’re really trying to project on those around you.  In addition, if you’d like to improve, use this as a guide to determine a next action that you could improve on in an attempt to express love more clearly.