By Chris Bates
This time of year we spend more time indoors because of the wintry weather. That obviously is a physical placement. As we move emotionally from outside to in, it means that we have to dig inward a bit. It is not always comfortable at first nor is it always our first response. There is no easy explanation, other than fear, as to why expression of love is so hard sometimes. To learn more, it is important for us to explore some different perspectives. Hopefully, these can let us learn to give it better and receive its benefits.
Webster’s Dictionary defines Love as “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: such as (1) the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) brotherly concern for others.” The definition makes it clear that it is outwardly focused and even gives example life roles that help explain it. It is interesting that sometimes we need to see it emulated by another in order to better understand it. Pause for a moment to consider what roles we play: father, mother, sibling, friend, coworker, acquaintance, and passer-by. Do we express unselfish concern as we live out each of those roles?
My wife and I are constant music listeners. We share playlists with many of our songs and have lots of them that speak to our relationship (probably a holdover from the days of mix tapes). Also, one of our favorite shows to watch as a couple over the years was Castle. One night while watching, we literally hit pause after actress Stana Katic (aka Beckett) gave her quick and blunt answer to the question, “How do you know when you’re in love?” when she said simply, “All the songs make sense.”
C.S. Lewis wrote a great deal on love, and even helped define it by explaining the biggest factor that keeps us from it: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” As we go through life and have opportunities to love, we must ask ourselves if it is worth it to be vulnerable. The fear of being hurt can cause us to stay shallow or even avoid love, but we forget that the risk is well worth it.
When asked to define love, my daughter said, “It is pure happiness and an indescribable emotion that is the greatest experience in life.” She shares the perspective accurately of how deeply fulfilling love is and how much it can really mean. That again leads us to the question of why we would not automatically be willing to love fully, no matter the possible cost. We should be mindful that this is not just about brand-new love or only romantic love, but also about how much we love in every relationship. As we look at the roles we have described, let us ask how we can better love our children, brothers and sisters, friends, coworkers, acquaintances and those we bump into throughout our day. Love takes effort, so will we reach out in love beyond what is easy and comfortable to be vulnerable and exemplify Christ’s model?
The ultimate definition is given to us in Matthew 22:36-39, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Within the Great Commandment, Jesus does not give us a list of rules or laws. Realize also that He is commanding us to do something for which He has already given us the tools and capabilities. He asks of us that we love God first and our neighbor even beyond our own selves. He created us to carry that out. Let us reflect during the month of love how each of us can best do what we are each made to do by digging deeper and showing unselfish concern.
Chris is President & Founder of Agora Company, a marketing, website, and advertising company based in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraCompany.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.