I remember the first time I heard that inflammatory statement. I was a teenager at a church conference, and I attended the class with this title simply so I could prove the teacher wrong. Love was most definitely a feeling! Who did this out-of-touch adult man think he was to try and tell us teenagers–the only ones who really felt and understood the true depths and breadth of love–that love was not a feeling?
Bless his little heart. He was right of course, and trying his darndest to teach a bunch of brainwashed-by-love-song teenagers something that would hopefully save us from ourselves in the years ahead. I actually got his message loud and clear and remember it well to this day. (Application is still a work in progress.)
The gist of his message was this: If love were nothing more than that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you first fall in love, what happens when the going gets tough and you aren’t “feeling it” anymore?
Every married person knows all too well how quickly that lovin’ feeling wears off after the bills start to roll in, or you have your first argument over housework, or conflicts arise with the in-laws, or you disagree on discipline methods for a difficult child. Love has to be more than a feeling; otherwise no relationship could continue past the “honeymoon stage”!
While “falling out of love” may be a red flag when you’re still in the dating phase, this teacher’s message was intended to get the teens in the room thinking about their future marriages and the connection between love and commitment in general–whether it be to a future spouse, other family members and friends, or even God.
So if love is not a feeling, then what is it? It’s an action, of course! Love is best suited as a verb. For instance, I love my husband so I’m happy to wash his dirty clothes and make sure he has what he needs to wear to work. This is very different from I love my husband so I’m thinking about him all day long with butterflies in my stomach.
This principle of “love through action” is essential when we choose to bind ourselves to another human being through a commitment, covenant, or promise such as marriage. After making such a commitment, we are then obligated to use that initial feeling of love to motivate us to the action of love. It’s our only hope for having a successful long term relationship.
Again, that can be hard to do in the midst of the not-so-fun stuff, but the magic of action-based love is that it has a way of bringing us back full circle to that feeling of love where we first started–usually with a deeper, richer flavor after time spent “steeping.” (I’m a tea lover, what can I say?)
In other words, if you want the feeling of love to stay in a relationship, you need to work on the action of love. (If I were technically savvy, I’d create a graphic called the “love cycle” and insert it here, but I’m hoping you can see it in your collective imaginations!)
So why am I talking about spousal relationships on a motherhood blog? Because the principle of action-based love that we apply to our relationships with our spouses relates perfectly to our relationships with our children.
While we may not take vows with our children, by virtue of bringing them into this world we are in a very real way committing to love and care for them no matter what–in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in poverty and in wealth, ‘til death do us part. And just like our spouses, there are “things” (like enduring three hours of crying, a toddler tantrum, a grade schooler’s messy bedroom, or the attitude of a sullen teenager) that can knock the wind right out of our sails and make us want to run to the mother/child divorce court!
It’s easy to forget those initial feelings of love we had for our children–the way we felt when we first found out we were pregnant, or when we first gazed into their eyes and began the process of falling in love. It happened to all of us at one point, and my message today is to not let yourself “fall out of love” with your children any more than I would hope you wouldn’t fall out of love with your spouse.
But mothers already do (there’s that action word) so much for their children! How does this principle apply to the mother/child relationship? I’m not asking anyone to do any more, but if you’re already doing, doing, doing, for your children, why not try to infuse a little more love into that doing? I think everyone would agree that there’s a big difference between doing what you do as a mother simply because you have to or you feel obligated to, and doing it with the intent of blessing your child’s life and helping them to feel your love for them. Not to mention what that kind of intent does for you, the mother! And it’s just a little mental switch. (Little mental switches go a long way.)
So while I do concede that the reward of loving is in fact a feeling of love, I stand by the idea that love is most importantly the action we take to bless the life of someone else. And who better to love than our children?
QUESTION: Who do you find it easier to love–your spouse or your children?
CHALLENGE: Put a little more love into all that you’re doing for your children this week and see if you can’t feel the difference!
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I agree and LOVE this piece!!!
kristin dibeh says
I can’t tell you how perfect this was for me to read this morning. thank you.
I needed to read this article today. Thank you.
So true. That’s why I have this print hanging in my house as a reminder! http://www.etsy.com/listing/109949387/love-is-an-action-85-x-11-print