Countless songs have been composed and hundreds of books have been written about love. It is all around us as stadium-rock oldies play overhead in every elevator in civilization while the concept is threaded into the plots of an endless chain of movies and sitcoms. Indeed, love is all around.
Still love remains a mystery to our culture as we allow children to be unsupervised (and uneducated) with others as early as possible, then act surprised when the result is often unhealthy. People learn about love through trial and error alone. How can something so important be so thoroughly misunderstood?
Our very own English word (“love”) has a plethora of meanings, understood only within the context and misused routinely to manipulate. Articulating that you love someone does not mean anything in and of itself. So how can we ever remove the confusion? This may come as a surprise to everyone in our current culture, but true and genuine love does not have as much to do with feelings as it has to do with other, much more important things. Much of what is called “love” today is simply extreme interest, desire, and infatuation. Infatuation is not, in itself, a bad thing, but confusing it with genuine love is, well, confusing. Feelings! Wait a minute, that is just one more song title for those of you who were alive in the seventies. Love feelings. I feel like I have feelings.
And so on.
Yes, love is actually what you do, not how you feel. When people tell me how much they “love” each other and then proceed to tell me how awful they treat each other, I am not impressed. But when I see people sacrificing for each other’s needs and fulfillment and watch their feelings grow into a robust commitment, I know they are getting it. Feelings can be powerful, but they are just emotional sensations that may come and go. Doing the right thing for someone is doing the loving thing. If people thought about this, they would certainly make decisions that build relationships and families, rather than tear them apart. If you act only on your feelings, your chances of doing the right thing (making good decisions, having success) are minimal.
When you are acting toward the actual welfare of the other person, you will always be acting in genuine love.
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