What is love?¹
First and foremost, love is a choice.
Love is a gift.
Love is something that I receive without doing anything to earn it. If I were to do something in order to receive love, then I wouldn’t be accepting love—I would be accepting payment.
Love is a risk.
Since love is a choice—in that it is given freely and independent of the actions of another—there is no guarantee that love will be reciprocated.
I can choose to freely give love, but the one to whom I offer love (the beloved) is under no obligation to give love to me.
This is why asking someone out is so terrifying. I offer love to him/her, and inherently run the risk of being rejected.
But the only way to be completely safe from this rejection is to turn inward and withhold love from everyone (tragically, this is not an uncommon occurrence).
However, this makes love sound like an object, a thing. In fact, this is one of the major flaws of our consumer culture. We have turned love into a commodity that can be bought, sold, or transferred.
Love, for our culture, is a service rendered. Love is a measurable act. It is the feeling that one feels in the pit of their stomach when seeing that particular person. Love is receiving a text message from him whenever I want one, or sending one whenever she asks for it. Love is the act of sex. We have allowed love to be commodified.
But, in reality, love is not a thing.
I offer love to another when I offer my unique self. (This is why it is so difficult for people who have never fully developed their own healthy sense of self to be in healthy loving relationships…they don’t know what to offer.)
I receive love from another when I receive him/her.
God shows us love by being fully present with us, making Himself² completely knowable.
Giving love is practicing vulnerability. I dare to make myself known to another; good, bad, and indifferent.
Receiving love is practicing wonder. I am struck by wonder and awe at the depth, beauty, and uniqueness of this person that is being vulnerable with me.
So…what do you need to know about love?
Everything you need to know you can learn from practice.
Practice being honest. Practice being vulnerable. Practice being patient. Practice being welcoming. Practice being empathetic. Practice being grateful. (Notice how most of these suggestions are ways to practice receiving love. This is of course because we learn to give love by receiving it.)
¹ Baby, don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.
² Herself, Godself, whatever…