What is Love?

Webster’s defines love as:

1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3. sexual passion or desire.

Urban Dictionary defines love as:

Giving someone the power to destroy you, and trusting them not to.

The Bible has several different words for love in the original Greek, but they all translate into “love” so it loses some of its nuance. There are four main types of love used in the Bible:

Agape — unconditional love
Philia — love that exists between close friends
Storge — love that grows between family members
Eros — “Erotic” or sexual connection

The love you feel for your spouse is different than the love you feel for a sibling, which is different from the love you feel for your child. Of course we would hope that all of them would be unconditional, but in my life I’ve rarely seen unconditional love exhibited.

In fact, I was taught that love is actually SUPPOSED to be conditional. After all, the theory went, God sends unrepentant sinners to hell. And if God is love, and God’s love is conditional upon repentance and acceptance, then our human love should also be conditional. Yes, that’s what I was taught.

But I disagree with that now. God is love. God loves every single human He has ever created in the history of the world. Unconditionally. He feels the pain of rejection when people opt to refuse His love, but He never stops loving them or wanting them to accept it. He grieves at having to allow people’s decision not to repent to cause them to go to hell. That’s not what He wants. We can debate all day long about how you can love someone and still discipline or punish them, but I think we all know that when we punish our children, we still friggin love them. I certainly hope so, at least.

That skewed notion of love translated into my human relationships. Since God’s love was conditional in my mind, then most certainly if a person loved me, it was conditional as well. The Bible doesn’t teach that. It says we should love our neighbor as ourselves. It doesn’t say “if our neighbor never hurts us, love them as ourselves.” Yet so many people act that way. I love you as long as there’s something in it for me… as long as you do what I want and don’t ever hurt my feelings, I’ll love you.

Real love isn’t like a light switch. It’s hard-wired.

I was also taught that forgiveness was conditional. The theory was that if we don’t repent and ask forgiveness, God sends us to hell. Same line of thought as the love thing. God has infinite capacity to forgive and forget, and our capacity is limited by our humanness. So if He doesn’t do it, we shouldn’t have to either.

I’ve come to my own conclusions about forgiveness, too. There have been two types of people in my life. People who hurt me and didn’t care, and people who hurt me and did care. It’s easy to forgive the people who genuinely felt remorse and asked for forgiveness. But I have two choices with the other folks… forgive and forget for my own well-being, or hold the grudge and resent them forever or until they have a change of heart. Which one do you think would give me more peace of mind?

My forgiving a person who hurt me and didn’t feel bad about it doesn’t have any affect on them… they are still a jerk. And eventually their actions, just like mine, will be judged. But carrying that anger and resentment around with me is like cancer. It grows and blackens your insides until all you have left is bitterness.

I’ve known a lot of people who can’t forgive for their own peace of mind. They hold the grudge and grow to hate those folks. And eventually, every human being you interact with closely will mess up and hurt you. So the end result is that people who can’t learn to forgive and forget end up isolated, bitter, and grumpy.

Here’s the Incredipete definition of love: Love is an unconditional care or passionate affection for someone for whom you would do anything, whose needs you put ahead of your own, and from whom you make no demands. If they love you, they will do the same. And that, my friends, is the beauty of mutuality. A phenomenon I’m experiencing for the first time with my lovely bride. That is what we call the good stuff.