We are about to celebrate Valentine's Day. There are lots of red hearts and candy around; lots of jewelry being bought; lots of flowers being ordered; and lots of dinner reservations being made.
Lots of people have something to say about love -- and about our idea of what love is.
Someone has said ... "Truly loving another means letting go of all expectations. It means full acceptance, even celebration of another's personhood."
Frank Zappa one said ... "I detest love lyrics. I think one of the causes of bad mental health in the United States is that people have been raised on love lyrics."
There certainly are many ideas floating around about love and what it really means. Mankind has always had a knack for making love into a mysterious and complex thing. We read poems and literary works about love; we hear and sing songs about love. But no one really defines love for us. It seems that maybe if we define love it might lose its magic, its mystery.
I think -- really -- love as we see it in today's society can be boiled down to a few points.
First, real love has to be unconditional. That means you care deeply for someone and have no particular desire to change them. You see them as perfectly fine the way they are. There are no conditions placed on whether you will love them or not. When your love is -- or becomes -- conditional, then the moment they step outside your set of conditions, love fades, or even ceases to exist.
Secondly, love is full of true appreciation for the other person. Appreciation takes us a step beyond acceptance. When you get into appreciation, your focus is on what you really like about that person. We have a deep appreciation for who they are, their joys, their insights, their sense of humor, and eventually, their companionship. When you hear someone say they are "in love" with someone, they probably mean their appreciation is so big for that person that it is always present, and you begin to think you would like to have those kinds of thoughts forever.
Finally, true love means we want what is best for the person we love. We want them to be happy, safe, healthy, and fulfilled.
I want to add another twist to the subject of what love really is. In doing so, I will quote the Apostle Paul to finish this column.
"4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails..." I Corinthians 13:4-8
Happy Valentine's Day everybody!