By Kenneth Stepp
As I am but a humble human, the title to this intimidates me just a little. What is love? I’ve heard hundreds of opinions over the course of my life. Most make sense, a few just left me wanting to help the person explaining it. No matter what our thoughts on love, it would seem, that everyone desires love, needs love, and in their search for it, makes so many mistakes along the way. Perhaps because they really misunderstand what love is.
Love is not a feeling. Yet when many try to explain what it’s like being in love, they talk of how they feel. Let’s unwrap that and try and figure it out. But first I’d like to point to two men that I believed knew what love was. And it was so important to them, when facing death. Their love was on the forefront of their thoughts.
John Wayne’s dying words were to his wife. “You’re my girl, I love you”
Jimmy Stewart’s dying words were, “I’m going to be with Gloria”, his wife of 43 years who passed away three years prior.
Both of the iconic men knew what love was. Real love, a love so deep that their last words alive were about or to the love of their lives. If you are taking notes, we want what they had. That’s love. Now, if only we can explain it. These men lead lives that many of us can only dream of.
John Wayne was a funny man. Most didn’t see that side of him. When he was presented an Oscar for his role in Cogburn. He whispered in Barbara Streisand’s ear, who was presenting it. “Beginners luck”, and walked off stage.
Jimmy Stewart, known for his kindness and always being a gentleman, had an ivy league education, wealth, and fame. Yet when his country needed fighters, he served in both the Spanish American war and in WWI. Both real men. Both knew what real love was. One has to wonder, how long did that take to know and at what point in life did they know it?
“Love is unconditional. The word “unconditional” means that there are no expectations or limitations set. To love unconditionally is a difficult thing, and most humans aren’t good at that. But true love really does love without trying to change the other person”
What is love:
Acceptance… Is that it? If someone loves me, they will have to accept quite a bit. Maybe it’s like that with all of us. If God made us and God is love, then it would seem He would endow us with the ability to “accept” who the person we love is as is. Since I believe He did, and I’m writing this, I will include it in my, “What is love”. As one ingredient of love.
Trust… I speak of this often. Trust, is nearly the opposite of jealousy. I lose a few when I talk about this. You see, trust is based on the other person, jealousy is all about you. Love and jealousy cannot live in the same heart. I lose a few there as well. I firmly believe that where love has grown, it removes any space for jealousy.
A relationship where one or both are jealous might look like love on the outside. But a real diamond and a glass diamond look alike too. It’s only when you test their strength that you tell the difference. When you look closely at the real value. One is worthless, the other priceless. Trust is a large part of real love.
Respect… This is a big one. To love another, requires respect. In any structure, and a relationship is the ultimate structure, or should be. In any structure, there has to be mutual respect. By respect I mean that you know the other has your back no matter what. You are a team. The two of you make an unbreakable line that no one can penetrate. And we must trust our partner’s ability and desire to be on that line with you.
Respect is all encompassing in every piece of the relationship. Respect is a key component of real love. Without respect, everything else falls apart because we find ourselves pulling twice as hard because we aren’t sure our partner will. Relational exhaustion sets in and inhibits the relationship growth. Love draws effort from both. And both know it. Where respect is missing so is effort.
My father taught me these lessons, and I look at his life for the rest of the ingredients to real love. He was always faithful, he was loyal, no matter what. He faced whatever my mom faced, no matter what came at them. They both put their shoulder to the wheel and shoved with all they had.
They didn’t always defeat what came. But when they lost, they lost together. Looking back, maybe those weren’t losses at all. Maybe they were lessons for my brothers and me about what love in action looked like. Maybe those times are the reason I know what real love looks like and the reason I desire it so much. What is love? Maybe it’s committing yourself to the service of someone who means more to you than you do. Maybe…
“We’ve lost a lot of years, but you can’t lose love. Not real love. It stays locked inside you, ready for whenever you are strong enough to find it again.”
― Martina Boone
My mom is a strong smart woman. My father was a man of valor. Perhaps this is why I am attracted to woman who are strong and smart. And I strive to be a man of valor. Parenting done right? Maybe…