“Feelings are like sales prices. They are subject to change without notice.”
-Derek Q. Sanders
‘I love you’ is among the sweetest words that our ears will ever hear, especially when the words are uttered from the lips of someone we care for deeply.
Love is a behavior. Love is what we do. Love leads.
Those three short words can touch and warm almost any heart in ways that leave us almost without words. But without the right foundation, these words can get you in trouble. So what exactly is the importance of these three words and how can they get you in trouble if the right meaning isn’t behind them? Here are four things to understand about I love you that can keep your relationship out of trouble.
They are an emotional expression
In today’s popular culture, I love you has been all but reduced to a mere expression, one that is primarily an emotional reaction. Those words most often represent the status of one’s ‘feelings’. As such, they are unreliable and unworthy of being considered true love as they reflect only a sentimental response not a deliberate action.
Those words come from an emotional space that describes sentiments toward someone who occupies a special place in our lives. Love is greater than a feeling. Emotions, while useful, are less than love.
Let me be very clear. In no way do I intend to diminish the value of heartfelt emotions. They offer us great value in their proper context.
In fact, it is the engagement of the emotions that adds vivid color to love, but they are not the foundation upon which love rests its head or firmly plants its feet.
They are what fairy tales are made of
In popular culture, we speak of love with the same breathy, heart-palpitating naiveté as when we were first introduced to love at bedtime in the fanciful fairy tales that whisked us off to sleep as children.
The white horses, brave princes, and sunsets have only been recast and exchanged for other symbols that lead us no closer to a real understanding of the true love that is found just beyond the frailty and instability of our feelings.
They are a choice, a decision, and an action
Love is decision-based not reactionary. Love transcends impulses which are fueled by the whims of our emotions. Years ago, a man who has become affectionately known to me as ‘Uncle Ron’ said these life-changing words to me, “Love is a behavior.”
Love is what we do. At times, love is what we do even in spite of how we feel. Love is far superior to emotions. Feelings require neither discretion nor requirement for engagement, only time and attention.
Sometimes, they settle for even less than time spent; the desire for time. Love is what one does because he is committed beyond words not because he feels like it. Love does not subject itself to the dictates of our emotions to follow them.
They are a relationship’s true measure
Love leads. Feelings are subordinate. Consider the exchanging of vows as a man and woman enter into the covenant of marriage before God and man. The words that they speak individually, as they enter into covenant, set forth the foundation of love.
Neither offer any promises to serve their feelings, but instead, they vow to maintain a consistent behavior, “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer.”
Love is only spoken of in terms of a commitment to maintain behavior with no mention of feelings. This is the true measure and representation of love.
BMWK, why do you say “I love you?”