Opinion | We need a new definition of love, starting with radical, constant commitment
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 23:09
Have you ever wondered to yourself, “What is love?” We’ve all been told different things by popular culture, but do we really know what we’re seeking?
On the eve of the sexual revolution, which would redefine the understanding of love as we know it, the famed writer C.S. Lewis sought to answer this when he published a short book entitled, The Four Loves.
In it, he describes the nature of love, and separates it into four different categories: affection, friendship, Eros (or sexual love), and agape (or love of God).
My hope is that this article helps establish a new definition of love – but prepare yourselves for something radical.
Today, if you asked most people what love was, they would probably describe it in terms not dissimilar to that of the song “Once Upon a Dream,” from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
They see the object of their love from across the library or Rec Center, and music immediately starts playing (I’ve never actually seen this happen, but I’m still waiting for a couple of strangers to break into song in King Café).
They might say they get a warm feeling around someone they love. Or perhaps they’ll say they enjoy spending time with someone. However, once again, I’m going to spoil the party here and attempt to correct our present culture’s concept of an idea so essential to being human.
But first, before we define love, let’s take an adventure down the road of “Once Upon a Dream” Love.
So there she is: your true love. (I’ll speak from the guys perspective, because I still haven’t quite figured out how women think – and I’m pretty sure I’m happier this way).
You know it’s her because she has everything you’ve ever wanted in a woman: smart, personable, attractive, etc.
The music starts playing and you get those funny feelings around your chest and you can’t stop thinking about her.
You see her at parties, you talk to her, the two of you get coffee, the two of you go out to dinner. Things escalate normally (whatever that means) for college relationships. The two of you ride the wave of the relationship’s warm and fuzzy feelings.
Then one day, out of the blue, the song stops. Maybe it’s because you’ve been having a bad day. Maybe it’s because your former Duchess of York has ticked you off. Maybe you see a different girl, and a different song starts. Maybe she stopped the song for you.
What now? You get that painful feeling like someone set a chisel to your chest and took a sledgehammer to it. You’re hurt, whether you’d like to admit it or not.
But why did this happen? You did everything you were supposed to. The song was supposed to last forever. Well guess what?
Real love is not like a song from a Disney movie, no matter what anyone says. That sudden, intense attraction is not imaginary; it’s just not love.
It’s called infatuation (also known as falling in love), and it’s important, it’s just not the whole thing.
Love is sacrifice – plain and simple. I’ll say it again to let it sink in, “love is sacrifice.”
Love is an act of the will – a choice. It is not a feeling. It is a commitment. C.S. Lewis may have said it best when he said in an essay, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”
Or, in the words or John Paul II, love is a gift of self. Love is more shown in acts of generosity and self-sacrifice than in the fleeting feelings of infatuation one feels toward another.
An example of this self-giving love would be a parent who gets up at night to check on the newborn so that his or her spouse doesn’t have to and can sleep.
I know this is radical, and this is contrary to what we’ve been fed through popular culture, but it is truth. We’ve got to believe it, if we have any chance of being happy with our relationships – whether they are with friends, with family, or romantic.
In order to love, we must sacrifice and give of ourselves. We’ve all seen that guy who cannot, or will not commit to a relationship because he doesn’t know what he wants. He’s usually characterized as a bum – and rightly so.
He’s like a sky-diver who got all dressed up and is on the plane, but he refuses to jump. Feelings of infatuation have their time and place (at the beginning of a relationship), but radical commitment and gift of self is the real key to love.
I’m aware that I’ve merely touched the tip of the enormous, hulking, Titanic-sinking, iceberg that is love, but in order to move forward, we’ve got to have a definition of love, so it’s a start!