Right now, in my small group, we are all in dating relationships. As a result, when we talk about dating, I think often about love. Growing up in the U.S. where I watched romantic comedies and learned all about falling in love from church, friends, and culture in general,
there always seemed to be a big debate. Is love a feeling for someone, or is it an action done for someone? I think most people might know what I mean when I mention this debate. Some people argue that love comes from the heart. Love constitutes the deepest, strongest desire for the well-being of another person. To love someone is to think of them before yourself and to desire their happiness above all other things. A person in love represents the highest, purest form of selflessness, and it is precisely the feeling of love that causes this. Others argue that the feeling of love proves insufficient, for how can another know love without tangible proof of it? Words mislead. Therefore, the only true expression of love is action. Love is a verb. It is a selfless giving of one person to another through palpable expressions for the other.
I disagree. Love is neither a feeling nor a verb, yet it is both. I believe neither of these arguments fully appreciate what love is. First, love as a feeling misleads. Ask anyone who loves their partner, and invariably, they will tell you how their love a year ago meant something entirely different than it does now. The feeling of love is a cloud; it constantly shifts shape. It leaves one unsure about love. What combination of feeling sums up love? One day love feels one way, and the next, it changes entirely. Furthermore, we cannot base it on attraction. Lots of people will appear cool, fun, attractive, engaging, and worth spending time with. They elicit a great feeling. Potentially, hundreds of people might meld well with any one person. We cannot base love on an emotion that a person could possibly have for multiple people at one time simply because of appearance, emotional connection, and attraction. Love is more than finding someone to be really awesome.
Love can be a verb, but when does action stop being something nice and start being love? People possess the capability to do selfless acts of kindness for someone they may never meet. Should this be called love? More specifically, in a romantic relationship, when do acts of kindness turn into acts of love? If it comes at the point of when someone does it out of feeling love, then the argument for “Love is a verb” dies. Additionally, what motivates the action? Is that motivation love? If so, then love is motivation. If not, then one could be said to love or be in love with anyone who receives kind-hearted selflessness. That seems wrong, too.
I propose love to be something else: love is history. To truly love or be in love, the absolute requisite activity is shared experiences. The commencement of these experiences may derive from a feeling or an attraction, but the composite result of spending hours with someone is love. Love consists of laughter, tears, celebration, arguments, trips, late nights, meals, and a whole list of other activities. Nonetheless, these activities themselves are not “love”. They may be loving. They may spawn from love, but not a one of them comprises all of love. Love is neither a feeling nor an action, for to speak so shallowly of love is to betray it. Love is a state of being born from the compilation of shared experience with another. Therefore, love never begins; it simply grows. One day, you may wake up, reflect on the composite emotions felt during your shared experience with a partner and realize, you love them. To do so requires a great, magical, and difficult journey.