What is Love?
- February 25, 2020
- Beth Gianopulos
February is the month of love. We have teenagers in the house, so I get to see love through their eyes. They have helped me remember the times when emotions felt so intense, and I thought that love was just like the romantic books and movies. During those early years, love was defined by feelings and emotional responses.
As I grew older, I experienced some other ideas about love. When I first became a mother, I started to think that love was self-sacrifice. In order to show my love for my child, I thought that I needed to neglect all of my own needs and focus only on the needs of my child. I took this new world view to the extreme, and I felt guilty if I did anything for myself. If I exercised, I thought that I was selfish because I had already missed time with my kids while I was at work. I felt like I needed to be actively engaged with my kids every moment that I was home, creating amazing memories and devoting myself exclusively to quality time with them.
In addition to believing self-sacrifice was a sign of true love, I also believed that being over-responsible and having no boundaries was necessary to earn love. I feared that if I ever said no to a friend, family member, or co-worker, they would stop loving me. I felt that I needed to earn love, and I sometimes believed that people only loved me for what I did, not for who I was.
I have also confused love with control. Even today, I desperately want to fix everything for everyone because I want people that I care about to feel loved and fulfilled. However, the more that I try to control circumstances or other people, the more out of control I feel.
There have also been times when love felt very much like guilt. I have spent time with someone, not because I truly wanted to, but because I knew that I would feel guilty if I did not. During these times, I have made decisions because I knew that I “should” do something, not because I was motivated by love.
So what is love? In 1 John 4, love is described:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)
In these verses, we see that God is love and love is infinite. We may treat love like it is limited, but there is no limit to love. Many things in life are limited – our intelligence, our patience, our motivation – but love has no limits. We do not need to ignore our needs, and we can set boundaries and still be loved. We do not have to work to earn love because love is a gift, not an achievement. When we truly accept the perfect love of God, we can love others with that same love. We will no longer need to control others to love them, and we do not have to motivate ourselves with guilt. When we fully live in God’s love, God lives in us and his love is complete in us.