What Is Love?
What is love? Oh baby, don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more.
But really, what is love? According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”
I was chatting with a close friend (you know who you are 😉) one evening about some of the struggles we have been going through. One of the things we agreed upon is that it is difficult to accept hearing the words, “I love you,” whether it be from a friend or a family member. We also agreed that it is difficult to say those words, and I came up with some reasons why that might be.
1. We Fear Rejection
For me, the reason I don’t say, “I love you,” to many of my friends is because I fear that I will be rejected. What if they don’t love me back? Will they think I am weird for saying that I love them? Most of us, as humans, feel the need to be accepted by people, especially those whom we love. And the thought that they may not love us in return is scary. Being vulnerable and letting our walls down is also scary. And rejection is definitely a possibility when we do this, but it is how we grow in intimacy with our loved ones. And it is how we learn to love and trust them more. Without vulnerability, there is basically no relationship. That may sound harsh, but I believe it to be true.
2. We Don’t Feel Worthy of Love
We all have a past, and most of us have things in our past that we are not proud of. Some of us deal with not feeling worthy because our parents, guardians, or role models taught us that they would only love us if we did “XYZ.” That may not have been the case, but it may have come across in that way. So, if we always felt like we were striving for something unattainable, then it would cause us to believe that we were not worthy of love. Or maybe something horrific happened to you in your past, something that someone who definitely didn’t love you did, and it left a deep hurt and scar. Maybe you feel like you deserved what happened to you, and that you aren’t worthy of being loved. But that is a lie from the enemy! Every single person, including you who is reading this, is worthy of love! And you are loved by a perfect Heavenly Father.
It may be difficult to understand the love of our Father, especially if we haven’t experienced love from our earthly father. One thing we must understand is that our earthly fathers are imperfect, and their fathers were imperfect, and so were their fathers. We can’t fully wrap our minds around how much God loves us, but He tries to help us understand. For one, He sent His Son Jesus to earth to sacrifice Himself for our sins and shame, and so we could be reconciled with the Father. If that isn't an example of love, I don't know what is!
He also tries to help us understand by showing us in His Word. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16.
In the Scripture I quoted when I first started this article, Paul is telling us exactly how our Father loves us. And we know this is true because the Holy Spirit is the one who inspired Paul to write those words. God is the only One who can love perfectly, and He does love us perfectly in this way. If you don’t take anything else out of this article, I want you to know that you are loved dearly and unconditionally!
3. We Equate “Love” to Romance
Many times, when someone says, “I love you,” I equate it to romantic love. If a man I am friends with were to tell me he loved me, especially if it isn’t something we normally say to each other, I would be questioning if he had feelings for me (unless he clearly stated otherwise). In today’s culture, friends don’t tell each other they love each other nearly enough, so it becomes something almost taboo or weird to say. But the truth is, we need to hear it way more often than we do. And we need to say it more often, too!
4. We Don’t Have the Right Words for It
In the Bible, there were actually four main words used to describe different types of love. We use the word “love” for so many different things today, and it has watered down the true meaning. I love God, I love my friends and family, I love my pets, I love tacos...all pretty different meanings, but the same word. You’d think that would make it easier to say, wouldn’t you? Haha
Here are the Greek words I am referring to: Storge, Philos, Eros, and Agape.
Storge: This type of love is referring to familial love and refers to natural or instinctual affection, such as the love of a parent towards offspring and vice versa.
Philos: This type of love is the one that we ought to have toward our friends, family, and pretty much everyone else. It’s the feeling of affection and friendship we have for others.
Eros: This type of love is more of a physical form of love. God created us with the desire for sexual intimacy, which is meant to take place between a husband and a wife. While Eros is important in a marriage, it is not enough. Philos must also be developed.
Agape: This type is the unconditional love that the Father has for us. No matter how much or how little we do, there is nothing we can do to change how much He loves us. It is also the type of love that takes place between God and His Son Jesus.
So, when people said they loved someone back in Bible times, there was no confusion of what type of love they were referring to because they had different words for each type. I wish there were a way to reintegrate these words into our everyday speech again. It is so important to know that we are loved by those around us. It is human nature, and something we all need in order to thrive in this world. And if we don’t feel loved, how, then, are we supposed to love? “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
My challenge to you, and to myself, is to start telling your friends and family that you love them. Not just that they mean a lot to you, or that you care about them, but actually use the words, “I love you.” It may be uncomfortable at first and take some getting used to, but I guarantee your relationship will deepen because of it. And no, I am not suggesting you say this to someone you just met a couple of weeks ago, but to your close friends and family who have been there for you through thick and thin; the ones you truly have Philos love for.
P.S. If you ever feel like you need to reach out and talk to someone, please send me a message! I may or may not be in your time zone, but I am always happy to talk! I love my friends and family from the bottom of my heart, and I want you to know that you are not alone and that you are loved!