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Return to Love

When I try to define what love is, this scripture from the Christian

Bible always seems to capture my understanding.

“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.” 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (NIV)

I love this passage because it conveys my sentiments: love is a verb. Sometimes, I think, we focus too much on the eros part of love, or even the affectionate part of love – the philia. When we think of love as a state of being or something that we receive, it is easy to miss the actionable part of love. For example, it is one thing to give or receive gifts or flowers for a holiday. It is another thing to commit every day to ensuring your partner feels appreciated, loved and connected with you – the doing part of love!

This February, I would love for us to refocus our attention on the “verb” part of love. How are we demonstrating love? February is “all about love.” Valentine’s Day celebrates romantic love; Black History Month celebrates cultural and familial love. When I googled “what is love?”, I found this list of eight types of love, which I like:

§ Philia — Affectionate love that occurs between friends or family members

§ Pragma — Enduring love

§ Storge — Familiar love

§ Eros — Romantic love

§ Ludus — Playful love

§ Mania — Obsessive love

§ Philautia — Self love

§ Agape — Selfless love

Among the lessons 2020 has revealed is how fragile our sense of connection to others sometimes is. Sheltering in place with a partner might have revealed how little you know about them. It may even have had you asking ‘where is the love’. CNN recently posted a story about the gender difference in mask wearing during COVID. Statistically, women are much more likely to wear masks and to be concerned about COVID precautions than men. Couples have felt their relationships strained because for some women – for many people – wearing a mask is simply an expression of love. It is a “verbing” way of demonstrating that “I care about your health and well-being and am willing to make a small sacrifice to keep you safe.”

Another way that the verb part of love has revealed itself is through self-love. How many people struggled to prioritize caring for themselves! Many people have become so used to getting their self needs met through external feedback that when some of those social interactions quelled a bit, they did not know how to affirm themselves or even really take care of themselves. While human beings are meant for connection and love, there is something amazingly healthy and grounding to be okay with being alone and knowing how to get your needs meet without having to be in an eros relationship or looking to others.

I cannot, in this moment, not mention how important it is for all of us to remember the importance of agape love. Sometimes I think the only times we think about agape love is during the King holiday – or maybe Easter, for those who are Christians. But imagine how different 2021 would be if we all committed to showing our neighbors, family, friends that we love them – unconditionally. Imagine the power of seeing the stranger as ourselves. Would we smile at strangers more, be kinder, be careful not to demonize people who look, feel, and maybe even believe differently than we do? Would we be willing to be inconvenienced – maybe temporarily skip going to our favorite bar or restaurant to contain the spread of COVID – so that children would be able to go to school? Could we maybe imagine paying higher taxes temporarily, so that we could give funds to keep our favorite bars and restaurants (and their staff) okay during this slow down? How are we willing to show that we really care for each other? Dr. King said, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” Let’s be more loving!

Until next month! Stay well and do, be & live better!

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