Love Is the Driving Force

Let me ask you, do you love the people around you?  Before you answer that question, think about it.  Think about what it even means.  There is a lot of talk in this world about love.  And there should be.  It is well worth our attention and thought.  But one thing that does happen as a result of all the talk is that we get confused about what love really is.  When I asked you that question about whether you love the people around you, what did you hear me asking?

Can I confess to you that I think differently today about the meaning of love than I used to?  I used to think of love according to the defining idea of doing basically right by someone.  If I treated you right and did not harm you, then that was love.  It was all defined for me by that idea of objective actions toward the other party.  Treating someone well and not harming them equals love.

This is well in line with a common thought that you have probably heard: “Love is an action.”  I have heard that or related statements many times.  I used to give hearty approval to it.  It guided my way of thinking.  Not exactly so any more.

While I still can appreciate very much the idea that is conveyed by this statement, I think that it can also run the risk of changing our conception of love in a very negative way.  The good side of this idea is that we cannot separate the concept of loving someone from what we actually do in relation to them.  Many people who say they love someone then continually do wrong towards them and mistreat them.  How can this be love?  It is very important to realize the truth that if we love someone, we will treat them well and do them right.

But is that all there is to love?  I have come to the very decided opinion that it is not.  There is more.  In fact, love is not first and foremost about what we do towards people.  I am careful in saying that, because I maintain my previous point that we cannot separate love from what we do towards someone.  But that is not the same as saying that love is what we do towards someone.  And while perhaps you might initially think that this is nothing but splitting hairs, I think there is an important point to be seen here.  I know it has been important for me to see and that I need to remember and learn this fact better.

Our acts towards someone are intimately connected to our love for them in many ways, but they are not the same as our love for them.  Our love really and truly is about what we feel for them.  Those feelings will indeed lead us to act a certain way if they are truly those of love, but the love itself is an ardent feeling within us of care and desire for another.  Love is, after all, about our feelings.

This has been so important for me to understand because I can fall into the mistake of thinking that my relationships towards others ought to be defined primarily (even if not exclusively) by the propriety of my actions towards them.  This has led me to devalue the emotional quality of love within that picture.  I am of an emotional constitution that it is fairly easy for me to act very properly towards people without a great amount of deep and heartfelt concern and care for them.  I know I am supposed to lend a helping hand, so I do, but it is not because there are deep impulses of compassion hurting my heart within me when they hurt.  I know that I am supposed to congratulate someone when things go well for them, and so I do, but it is not as if I am bursting at the seams within myself because I, too, am overjoyed at the good that has befallen the other person.  Is this true love?  I do not think it is, at least not of the sort that is ultimately best and necessary.

I ask you, what do you want from your closest friends?  Do you want mere proper behavior towards yourself?  So long as they treat you civilly and go through the actions at the right times, will that content you?  How about from your wife or husband?  Do you not want more than that?

Of course you do.  We all do.  Love is one of the most basic human needs.  We need to be loved, and we know that love is more than simple objective actions.  We know that a mother’s love for her child is far more than simply giving food to that child and putting clothes on that child.  A loving mother does those things, no doubt, but love is something deep within the heart than can hardly be expressed.  If you have ever known true love, you would not diminish it to the mere level of propriety of action.  It is far richer and deeper.

Love satisfies.  We can often rest content when we are loved, regardless of what other outward circumstances might befall us to our harm.  On the other side, we can have all the good circumstances of life, and if we do not have a companion in life with whom to share love, we will feel rather empty indeed.

Now, let me return to the question.  Do you love those around you?  Do you love them the way that you want others to love you?  Do you truly and deeply care for them?  Again, I did not ask if you act uprightly towards them.  I asked if you love them.

Love is the driving force behind all right relationships.  That cannot be overstated.  If you have any right, true, deep relationships with anyone, it will necessarily be based upon deep love.

For how many people in your life would you say you have true love?  That is, for how many people can you say you really feel within yourself a deep emotion in their favor and behalf?  It really matters in your heart whether things go well for them or not.  You hurt when things don’t go well.  You desire to be in their company.  You long for things to go well for them.  You love them.  You care for them within.  Do you love people this way?

I have had to recognize that I need to work at loving people more.  I must foster within myself the emotions of true love towards others, not mere civility or friendliness.  I must learn to love them.

And you know what?  People respond to love.  You can win people over with love ten thousand times more quickly than you can with any other means.  In truth, it is probably the only way you can really win them over to yourself in the end.  Love is deep, and it is powerful.  When someone perceives that you truly love them and care for them, they will listen to you.  They will appreciate your love.  They will become your friend, very likely.  They may even return your love as well, which will be a rich gift for you.

If you can simply become a person who truly loves others, you will have achieved a great and noble thing.  You will have become what you were meant to be.  Love is at the heart of life.  Let us learn to be those who truly love.

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About amspencer1984

I am a Christian who desires to serve in God's kingdom in the best way possible. I have served as a foreign missionary in southern Mexico. I have worked as a youth minister at my local church of Grace Baptist in Dickson, TN. I have also recently begun to write books with a desire to help others grow in life. I hope that they are helpful and effective in doing that. I have been married to Alicia Spencer since 2003. We have six children and give thanks to God for all of them.
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2 Responses to Love Is the Driving Force

  1. dkspencer3 says:

    Aaron,

    Thanks for this emphasis on the importance of feeling in love. I totally agree that true love has to include deep feeling for someone. But I’m not sure I completely agree with what you’ve said here. Maybe I do though. I’m not sure.

    I would say that it is impossible to truly treat others rightly without deep feeling for them. Yes, we can treat them civily and properly in a sense. We can sacrifice a little for someone that we feel little emotion for. But will we be willing to be despised, rejected by men, and betrayed in order to treat someone fairly who we don’t have any emotional care for? Will we risk our own necks to help someone we don’t feel for? i doubt it. I think that true love is both emotions and actions. I know you agree. But it seemed that you exalted feelings above actions. I’m not sure I agree with that. Is love primarily feelings or actions? I would say it’s equally both. True love has to include both. If someone has deep feelings for someone but doesn’t believe the Bible, how can he really love that person? Like a parent who wants the best for his child but doesn’t know what that best is b/c he rejects God’s word, he can’t really love his child. B/c he doesn’t really know what actions are loving. Feeling without truth of action isn’t true love. It’s earthly, fallen love maybe. But it isn’t Biblical love.

    But I don’t really think we will be able to truly love people with actions if we don’t first have deep care for them in our hearts. Without care and emotion for their well being, our actions of sacrificial love will have limits. It will be more about our own well being and prosperity than theirs.

    Just some thoughts. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’ve said. Are we on the same page here?

    Daniel

    • amspencer1984 says:

      Thanks for the thoughts, Daniel. Sorry it has taken me a while to respond.

      I do think that we are on the same page in the overall picture. You are saying that feelings without action is not true love (among other things that you are also saying; but I think this is the main point of what you have said, probably). I definitely agree with that entirely, as you rightly supposed. I have slightly altered what you have said, perhaps, though. I have put it in a form slightly more in accord with the way of speaking that I think helpful to me. The lack of actions is the way that we can see that a person does not love. The actions can be proof of a lack of love. This is a very important main point to have in mind in this overall discussion.

      One point that I was focusing upon, however, that might not be agreed upon readily is that I think love to be distinct from the actions it moves us to. I think that the love itself is probably more properly identified as the deep emotional feelings that we have inside of us. The actions are better identified as the fruit of that love. This is what I have come to think is probably the most accurate understanding of the matter. One might disagree with my about that, of course, and it would not be a major issue.

      What I do think is important about it is something else that I know we agree about, as you said in your comments themselves: WIthout deep feeling for someone, our actions (even if civil and appropriate and “upright”) are not true love. I am concerned greatly to emphasize (and learn better myself) how important the deep care for others is to this whole picture. True Christian love is a deep care and concern for others that we will indeed feel within us. It is not cold and calculating. I have not always understand that as well as I should. I know we do agree on this other part of the main picture, and that is what I was wanting to bring out primarily. The actual analysis of what love properly is might have value (I do think it has some), but it is not as central and important as these things that I am sure we do agree about.

      Hope that helps to clarify somewhat.

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