Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Want You to Show Me

Someone smallish asked me recently to define "Love."

I stalled, "You mean what a parent feels for a child?" thinking Please don't be something we can't cover here in Rubio's Mexican restaurant.

"Love in general," she responded, "what does it mean to love someone?"

I chewed and I thought. Do I mention that I would die for my daughter without a second's hesitation? No, because that's the kind of dramatic definition of love which, given to a girl at a formative age, will cause her to swoon over Edward Cullen, then Heathcliff and then date moody jerks. Do I allude to common interests and background being a strong basis for love? Not unless I work for J-Date. Is Consort's humor, intelligence and kindness why I love him, or should I just be grateful I happened to fall in love with someone funny, smart and kind? Is love nothing more than a pleasing body odor which indicates the other person is in good health and gentically dissimilar to you? If so, why am I never heard shouting "Huzzah! Consort's dirty laundry!"

Eventually, I came up with "Loving someone means you can absolutely trust that person," all the while my head shrieked up about fifteen examples of friends who swore they were in love with people who couldn't be trusted with a ficus. I suggested my head shut up and refile those under "Drama, mid-twenties." My dithering became uninteresting to my lunch companion who asked for her book to read. I took it out of my purse and she settled in to read and I dithered further. Days have passed without a great answer. So, series of tubes I call the Internet, I offer this up to you:

What does it mean to love someone?

29 Comments:

Anonymous --Deb said...

Never having to say you're sorry?

Oh, wait, that one's taken.

Yes, that faith and trust thing sounds lovely, but you can absolutely love someone without being able to trust them with your wallet, your heart, or the last piece of cake.

But, if you love them, you forgive them. You might get angry at them, but you care enough to look beyond their faults and see the good person that they are despite them. (You hope.)

Or it's just that they're the people your soul best relates to and most resonates with yours as we travel this journey of life.

(And if that's not sickeningly greeting-cardish enough for you, I don't know what is ... but it doesn't mean that it isn't true.)

7:49 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

To love someone is a choice. Sometimes loving is so easy and feels as natural as breathing and as wonderful as heaven. Sometimes it is hard work and lots of collaborating and other times it is just a leap of faith to follow the bliss.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

What was that quote from Les Miserables?

"To love someone is to see the face of God"

But that may just confuse things further.

This is a very tough question, but that's understandable, love isn't an easy thing to define with words, because with love it's the actions that matter.

Love is an act of faith. It's a house built on hope with trust as it's foundation, it's belief in all that is seen and unseen. It is unconditional and non-negotiable. It is forgiving and ever loyal.

and it's the best stuff on earth.

Peace ~ Rene

9:03 PM  
Blogger Janice said...

I think that if you are willing to put another person's happiness and wellbeing before yours then you love that person. That cover's all sorts of love.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

I'd have to go with the idea that *healthy* love is about a mutual replenishing of one another. I mean, yeah, there's obsessive love and lusty love and self-sacrificial love. There's even the kind of "love" that a person can have toward another individual who abuses and belittles them. But, in my humble opinion, the good kind of love is one that is balanced, respectful, and, while it may have its challenges, is ultimately about loving someone who helps you love yourself.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Marie Green said...

I'll take a stab at this, but I don't have high hopes for any kind of success.

I think to love a child is cellular. We don't have a choice in the matter, it's beyond our reasoning and beyond our brain's conscious decisions. To treat them lovingly is a whole different story, of course...

To love another adult- a peer in this world is tricky. There are a few people in my life that I love but I cannot have a healthy relationship with. A friend from high school, for example. I love her- I truly care what happens in her life- but she has so much drama a chaos that I choose not to have an active relationship with her.

To love a spouse is to find someone that wants similar life experiences, and to then join your lives together to meet a shared goal. As the infatuation fades, a strong foundation is (hopefully) revealed. Foundations are comfortable, so we strive to keep the relationship good, to keep ourselves safe and happy...

My friend wrote about this not long ago, and I blathered on and on in her comments section, too. (http://scenicoverlook.blogspot.com/2010/02/unconditional-love.html if interested.)

7:21 AM  
Blogger ChrisinNY said...

I agree with Janice, but with a caveat. You don't always put that person's welfare ahead of your own because sometimes that is just not healthy (see 20s drama, etc). It is choosing them to have in your life, sharing intimate details of life, working to help achieve their dreams (even if the dreams are not the same as yours), it is creating a shared hoard of memories together, and when things don't go smoothly trying to understand the other person and keep them in your life instead of turning away and shutting them out. It is triumphing over selfish wants to benefit the other person (but not ignoring your own personal needs in the doing so).

9:17 AM  
Blogger Narya said...

When something bad happens to that person, you do what you can to help, or to at least make him/her feel better around the edges. When something bad happens to you, that person does the same in return. When something bad happens to the two of you together, you try to work together to address the bad.

The other piece is what happens when you do something "bad" to the other person, or vice versa, because, in fact, we all have our bad/hurtful days. Does the other person get mean? Can the other person be trusted? Does the hurting party try to fix what s/he broke?

And, really, those questions work for most kinds of love that I can think of, off-hand.

My experience is that we can't do a whole lot for each other; we each mostly have to row our own boats, or, to quote an old philosophy professor, take our own baths. So, for me, the kindness and the love comes in in the small ways we treat each other, in the ways we fight to overcome our own fears (or, at least, not act on the basis of them) and the ways we fight to understand others' fears. Because fear is what makes people act badly.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

This is a very intersting question. Simple on the surface but the most complex question anyone could ask. I think love is unexplainable. It's something that resides in your soul and you KNOW it's there when it truly is but it's more a feeling than a thought! If your body were a cell phone, most relatable to most, your sim card would be your soul and your body the phone. People generally put the information you want to retain on the sim card so when the phone is destroyed, you don't lose what's important. God, I believe, allows us to retain our love on our "sim card" and take it with us. but the brain and the scars and bad experiences and all the dark stuff are left behind. The more love you gather in life, the more of you, you take to the afterlife. so as you know, if you don't save what's important on your sim, you're screwed! LOL!

10:06 AM  
Blogger CameoRoze said...

I'd love to have you turn the question around. Ask your daughter the same question and see what she comes up with as an answer. She likely has a good one which will give us adults insights and astound us in its graceful simplicity.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Nunu said...

A friend once told me he knew he was in love because the woman made him smile from his heart. Not sure how helpful that would be to explain to daughter, but just had to add my two cents.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Being happy to see someone and sad when they go away. Being very excited by the near term and fleeting things and deeply comforted by the steady and longer horizon things.

That's my 2 cents.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Michaéle said...

Ouch. Having to think this hard on a Monday is mentally very painful.

I love (no pun intended) all the previous answers and it really is probably the most difficult thing to define. I'll give it a go as a wife of 20 years and a mom of 18 (years, not kids).

When I love someone, their happiness brings ME more happiness than I had before.

When I love someone, I will do whatever possible to keep them happy, safe, warm, fed, laughing, content because how they feel about everything matters everything to me.

When I love someone, I hurt when they hurt. I also am overjoyed at their joyfullness.

Love is something you must genuinely give in order to receive and giving it is effortless and comes very natural.

My 18-year-old son has a girlfriend and my 16-year-old daughter has a boyfriend. I know these young couples are in love because they laugh constantly when they are together, enjoy the simplist of things in life to share together and time together is precious.

I better stop before I start feeing compelled to watch the Hallmark Channel or something.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are different ways of loving people, but for this I will focus on the love between a husband and wife. I never realized how much I loved my husband until he left me. I have gone through all the stages one goes through after such a loss...shock, anger, bitterness, resentment, and utter, complete sadness. But at the end of the day? I still love him. It doesn't make sense. It isn't logical. There are a hundred (or more) reasons why I shouldn't love him. But I do. As I am writing this I am trying to think of some way to explain it, even to myself. And I can't. I just do. All the romantic notions and cliches that I cursed when he left...they are all still there. We have a connection. So, I have let him back into my life. I don't know how it will turn out, but it doesn't really matter. Because today? I love him. And I would rather have this time with him than turn him away based on the rationale that I shouldn't still love him. When someone can hurt you that way and you love him nonetheless...that is love. Pure and simple.

7:11 PM  
Blogger George said...

Love is being able to say your sorry and the loved one excepts it with a silent response and then a hug.

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

Very interesting, complicated and important question. To me, love is unconditional care, devotion and loyalty to someone at their very worst as well as their best and in between, knowing and accepting their worst flaws (even if encouraging improvement). Commitment within love is something that should be renewed each morning. Yet, that just scratches the surface. There's so much more to it. I sometimes think that my definition of love isn't what other people define as love.

Also, I think it's really important to be really clear on what love isn't, what is never allowed within a relationship if it can be defined as love. In a world that still has so many problems with how young girls and women are treated, I think that's one thing that should be really clear. So, I'm not trying to be spammy or self-promoting in your blog, but I recently wrote an entry on what love isn't on my little, sometimes morbid little blog:
http://www.robinraven.com/blog/2010/7/7/crazy-love.html

Ultimately, I think love is very different for each person. Because people are very imperfect, others who are loved don't always know how loved they are, because people can fail to treat them lovingly.

Alright, I could go on all day, but, seeing as how I am nocturnal and not thinking my best in the morning, I should end the comment. ;-)

6:45 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

After this wonderful array of answers, I don't have much to offer. I guess if one of my kids asked me this, I'd probably say something like "You know how you feel about the cats, even when they annoy you by puking on your bedroom floor or sharing their fleas with you or sitting on the remote and accidentally changing the channel you're watching? Like that. It feels like that."

9:04 AM  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

That their happiness is essential to your own.

Plus a whole host of other things. I'm not sure you can sum it up in a pithy one-liner. Or maybe I'm just not smart enough to do so (which is entirely possible).

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't have more to add right now, except to direct you to a wonderful album, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." In between the songs, there are snippets of a class talking about Love. It's a lot more entertaining than you'd think.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous scarlet said...

And I quote:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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."

8:41 PM  
Anonymous cauphy p said...

Note to self: don't read QC Report the last thing before you go to bed or you might not get there for awhile. Anyway, when I read your request, the first thing I thought of was a little yellowed piece of newsprint I cut out quite awhile ago from a sort of "question man" type feature, where the question (around Valentine's Day) was something like "What is love?". One of the answerers was a pleasant looking, young fellow, C.A. age 10, who answered the question like so:
" ...when two people grow fond of each other, get married, get a house and a job, have kids and stay together until they die."
Such an answer from one so young amused and touched me. As I reflect on this now I imagine enough years have passed that he may be living out what love meant to him at age 10. At least I'd like to think so. I wonder who may have been in his life back then possibly inspiring him to answer in that way. That's an inspiration to me as I live before the ones I love.
I enjoyed reading everyone's answers and I think gathered all together they make a pretty good definition of what love is.

2:14 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

Okay, so knowing what I know about kids, I'd start with asking her what SHE thinks loving someone means. Sometimes they're incredibly insightful and already have some pretty decent answers, which may give you a jumping-off point for a pretty good conversation. So many of the big unanswerables can be handled this way and thus filed as "teachable moment". :)

What do I call love? Love is when life seems too short to do everything you want to do with a person. It's when you're willing to get mad at each other and trust that love is still there the whole time. It's when you're willing to be vulnerable to someone, and every single painful thing you go through together is a step up on the big ladder of intimacy. It's a lot of laughter and friendship and inside jokes and being willing to go through any amount of inconvenience to show up and support that person when they're in need. In short, I read once that love is when you care more about what you give someone than what you get from them. But of course it's not quite that simple since it can be so easily misinterpreted as a big wad of codependent ick. So that might be a bit complicated for a little one. Stick with the Socratic method, says I.

Good luck, Quinn!

7:55 AM  
Blogger cndymkr / jean said...

I don't have any thing to add but I think Lisa had the best response yet.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Kcecelia said...

The world with the beloved in it—when they are with you—when they are far away, seems an infinitely brighter and more hopeful place. They make you see yourself as shinier than you had imagined possible. Your heart expands when you think of them, without a limit to the expansion. As a result of loving them, you can love everyone and everything a little bit more.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Susan Champlin said...

It's when you realize that "WE" are more important than whatever "I" am pissed off about.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Pat'sPen, Ink! said...

I'll tell you the one thing I know and know truly. Love is not a feeling. Love is a response. Love is when, no matter how you feel about a person, place or thing, somewhere inside you, there is still a big "yes". I loved my mother. She was a mentally-ill abusive alchoholic and there were days, hell, whole years, when I hated her and everything about her. But I loved her. At the same time. Love is not an emotion. Emotions come and go. Love sticks around. Love is a response. It says yes. Yes because and yes in spite of. But yes.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love is an open, optimistic expression and confirmation that you believe that life is better when shared with others.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous cauphy p said...

I ran across this C.S. Lewis quote today:
"Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained."

2:04 AM  
Anonymous neil fleischmann said...

Eliyahu Dessler develops the idea that loving is giving.

1:41 AM  

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