The Behavior of Love

“Love is the beauty of the soul.” -Augustine of Hippo

What’s your definition of love? Ask ten people and you will get 10 different answers. They will range from those who think it is just sweet, sappy feelings to those who believe it is deep and unfathomable. It is believed by some that it is an emotion; and for others it comes in the form of actions. For some it is painful and to be avoided and others have lost it, long for and must have it. However it is described, it certainly is profound, multifaceted and mysterious.

As a counselor, I see love mainly through the actions in how we treat others in relationships and the words we use to show others value and importance. Now love itself may not be a feeling; but there are certainly many feelings that are associated from being treated with loving actions and words. Generally when we meet someone and fall in love, we spend a lot of quality time with them, have a great deal of conversation, show affection, buy and give gifts and say affirming, validating things. We sacrifice our time, money, other relationships and energy for this person. Much of the feelings we have of love for this person are based on our interpretation of the caring, loving, behaviors and effort they show toward us. They ‘meet our needs for love’ so to speak. In fact, psychological principles show that when we “fall out of love” our perception of our partner’s willingness and ability to meet our needs through behaviors and words strongly impact our feelings of being loved (Friesen & Friesen 1989). When both positive loving actions stop or slow down, and negative interactions increase, our sense of being in love is diminished-we begin to “fall out of love.” Willard Harley says there are five types of behaviors, or Love Busters that can have a negative effect on your love: Angry Outbursts, Disrespectful Judgments, Annoying Behavior, Selfish Demands and Dishonesty. Feelings are tied to behavior. So when we do the behaviors of love, our feelings of love and closeness can increase.

As a Christian, I see love not as a feeling, but a choice. Our feelings can easily get us in trouble. We feel like staying in bed, eating that second piece of cake or buying a new car we don’t need. We don’t feel like going to the gym, making that call or contact, making a budget or completing the task our spouse has asked us to do. Most of the time when I don’t feel like it, the ironic result is that it is necessary, for the good, and the right thing to do. It’s about making the determined decision and choice to take the action and usually it takes courage-to do the hard thing, the right thing. The love God shows to us is not based on a feeling, but a choice- to love the unlovable and to give us what we need. This is the character and attitude of love and the one we should emulate. Love: gives, cares, acts, forgives, shows respect, empathizes, sacrifices, serves, looks to please, is others focused and builds others up. Maybe Jacob Boehme said it both as simply and with as much insight as it can be put: “Love transcends all that human sense and reason can reach to.” Make the choice to show love by your actions and your words!

 

Take the 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love Challenge by inserting your name:

______ is patient, ______ is kind. ______ does not envy, ______ does not boast, ______ is not proud.   ______ is not rude, ______ is not self-seeking, ______ is not easily angered, ______ keeps no record of wrongs.   ______ does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.   ______ always protects, ______ always trusts, ______ always hopes, ______ always perseveres. ______ never fails.

Blessings,

Mike

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