Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a decision. A decision rooted in an understanding of a person’s condition. How does this look in the realm of social technology? People are crying out for help all around us all the time, but we are often too busy or too distracted to notice. Sometimes we don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to engage in another person’s hurt, so we click the “thumbs up” and keep scrolling as a way of providing the lowest level of investment in their pain.
I want to challenge you today to allow yourself to deeply invest in the hurt of two people you come across on your social technology today. Instead of simply liking their post, I want you to stop and ask them how you can pray for them AND, to take it a step further, find a way to make your love tangible. If they are hurting because they lost a loved one, pray for them AND ask if you can contribute to a local nonprofit in memory of their loved one… or if you can send their family a gift card to Door Dash so they don’t have to worry about food for the next couple of meals.
I know. I’m speaking contrary to so much of literature, movies, books, television shows, poetry. Love isn’t a feeling? Bullsh*t, you’re likely saying. Of course, it’s a feeling. I’ve felt it myself, many of you are probably thinking.
Attraction is a feeling. Lust is a feeling. Affection is a feeling. Excitement is a feeling. Adoration is a feeling.
Love, though, is not a feeling. It’s an action and a choice.
You don’t just “fall in love.” You choose to turn toward and pursue growing and staying in love with someone.
Consider: I meet someone who strikes my fancy, so I go on dates with him or her. We go on two, three, four dates, and I am smitten, head over heels, excited about this one. Yet, let’s say for whatever reason, I stop spending time with them. I get a new job offer and move away across the country. I get scared and decide I’m not ready for an intimate, committed relationship so I cease seeing them.
Well, then I am not going to fall in love with this person. I disrupted the process. I turned away. I halted the possibility in its tracks by doing this.
Why? Because love is not instantaneous. Love takes time. It takes hundreds of hours spent with someone, and in varying situations, in order to flourish and grow. It requires seeing this person in all sorts of different scenarios.
Lust is easy and takes no time at all. Attraction is easy. Excitement is easy. These can all be felt almost instantaneously on meeting someone. (They can also grow over time while getting to know someone). They are felt frequently when first dating someone. None of those sensations are love though. They get mistaken for love all the time, but they aren’t love. Love takes longer.
Thus, when a guy says, “I couldn’t help it. I just fell in love with my secretary!” Or a woman says, “you can’t help your feelings. I fell in love with my neighbor even though I’m happily married. It just happened.”
Wrong. You can help it.
You cannot help your feelings, sure. We are going to feel attraction, lust, and draw towards different people throughout our lives. These feelings are somewhat out of our control. But. You decide to proceed forward and either move towards those feelings or away from them. And as a result of this decision, you decide and determine whether it grows into love or not.
Because love takes much longer than a few weeks to develop, it is no accident. And it doesn’t “just happen” out of your control. Love is something you choose to pursue and allow to develop.
Love is many actions and behaviors, including…
Choosing to stick with someone even in the tough moments, because they mean a great deal to you and because overall, the relationship is a great one.
Love is deciding to put effort and heart into your relationship. Remembering birthdays and anniversaries and celebrating them with thought and heartfelt effort. It is thinking of and attending to your relationship regularly, giving it the care and quality time.
Love is feeling immense attraction to someone else, but choosing not to pursue that and not to go down that road, because it would violate the perimeters of your relationship with the person you love deeply.
Love is making a point to show up, to listen with focus, to be present, to be reliable, to be responsive, to put the time in.
Love decides to take leaps and make sacrifices. To move to a new city in order to remain close to your partner. To embark on an adventure together. To work less in order to be present with your partner more. To adopt a pet together. To purchase and create a home together.
Love is pausing and taking the time to listen to your partner talk about something that excites them. It’s choosing to be interested in the things they are impassioned by. It’s remembering what is going on in their life. It is partaking in some of the activities that they love sometimes too.
Yes, love also entails emotions and feelings too. Within love, we can feel giddy, we may feel heart warmed, excited, aroused, fulfilled, comforted, contented, a sense of closeness, desire, and even awe. So yes, love comes along with emotions too. Love is intertwined with feelings.
But love, in general, is not an emotion. It is behavior and actions.
Love is a myriad of choices. Most of which are seemingly small, everyday choices, which are in fact, huge. These small everyday choices are what make up the big picture of love. From calling your partner when you said you would, to being on time for dinner, to listening carefully when they tell you about their feelings and recent life experiences and delighting in going on a walk with them after dinner. And then love is also huge, monumental moments as well. Such as choosing to adopt a child together, or moving to a new city for your partner’s job or education, or turning away from someone else to whom you feel attracted and toward your partner instead.
All of it, though, is comprised of countless different choices. Love is the hundreds of choices we make, every day, and every week. We choose love. It doesn’t “just happen” to us while we are passive passengers. We pursue and seek it. We turn toward (or away from) it.
Love happens because, following attraction and initial interest, we choose to keep going on dates with someone, in order to allow something to develop.
Love happens because we decide to spend hundreds of hours with a person, listening to them, learning about them, laughing with them, and engaging in all sorts of experiences with them (interesting, fun, exciting, and even challenging ones).
Love continues because we choose to forgive. Because we choose to focus on and continue to see our partner in their best lights, as opposed to focusing on their more difficult, not so becoming traits.
Love grows because you keep turning towards and valuing your partner, in a variety of ways, via your actions.
Love endures because you choose it, over and over again.
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