Love runs deeper than many people realize, and the outcomes of love are significant. We all recognize when we don’t feel loved or when we have a hard time feeling love for someone who isn’t behaving lovingly. But, what we don’t often recognize is that love isn’t something that can be turned on and off like a switch. Even though love is a choice that people make, it isn’t an instantaneous feeling and connection to a person. Love requires a level of investment that selfish people easily dismiss as a sign that there really isn’t love in a relationship at all. Understanding true love versus the modern social interpretation of love is vital for true happiness and good relationships.
Where We Learn Love
The outcomes of feeling love from parents are profound. Feeling loved and having people to love is a vital part of human flourishing. The Harvard Human Flourishing Program found that when children feel love from parents during childhood, then children are less likely to have depression, use drugs, and participate in risky behaviors. Additionally, young adults who felt love and warmth from parents as children have 21% higher human flourishing than those who didn’t. Those same young adults have significantly higher social, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. (Harvard Human Flourishing Program Study)
Mothers experience the deepest form of human love; the flesh of my flesh, literal oneness, attachment before even knowing a person kind of love. Even though father love runs deep, mothers’ hearts, being literally attached to their children before birth, are permanently tethered to their children through an irreplaceable bond of love. Love for a child simply happens to a mother because of her sacrifice for the child she never knew until she went through the “valley of the shadow of death” to bring the child into the world.
The love we all feel and search for throughout life starts with mothers. Mother love is deeper than affection, attraction, or pleasure. No matter what her child could do to displease her senses or feelings, her heart will always be attached to her child. Humans learn to love from their first love, mother. Mother love is spiritual.
In fact, all true love is spiritual. Much could be said about counterfeits for love, like pleasure, excitement, stimulation, acceptance, understanding, or passion. However, that full conversation will need to happen another time. Since Valentine’s Day is upon us, the focus needs to be on true love.
True Love Is:
A children’s hymn I was raised on called “Where Love Is,” says, “Where love is, there God is also. Where love is, we want to be. Guide us, His truths to follow. Help us obey Him faithfully…”
This simple song teaches a profound truth about true love. True love is of God, and He magnifies all love in us. This is easy to see in the mother who is filled with love for her unborn child. Where does this deep, self-sacrificing love come from? It’s a spiritual gift to women from God. This deep gift is the greatest protection for a helpless child after all. How wise God is to bestow such a gift!
True love, the kind that endures trials and can reach all hearts, is God’s love for all of us. As we choose to increase our love for others, we are literally acting for Him, as He would have us do.
- True love is spiritual
- True love is personal
- True love is a principle
- True love is selfless
- True love serves willingly
- True love is joy
- True love is sacrifice
- True love is patient
- True love is kind
- True love is honest
- True love is work
- True love is contagious
- True love is courageous
- True love is caring
- True love forgives
- True love repents
- True love unites
- True love gathers those who need gathering
- True love gives the benefit of the doubt
- True love values all people despite flaws or struggles
- True love declares truth
- True love doeth good
The Latin root of the word good is God. Good means God-like. To do good is to do as God would do. That’s a tall order, even for love.
Sometimes We Fall Short
The list of what love is as shown above, which is likely only a partial list, isn’t just for perfect people, but for all of us. Luckily our imperfections help our love grow.
Recently, I met with a mother who was worn out. Her teenage daughter, whom she said she loved, was constantly lying about her and battling her, which made life feel heavy and emotionally draining. When we started talking about her relationship with her daughter, the mother instantly felt guilt for not feeling as much love toward the daughter she knew she really did love. The mother was often depressed over the situation with her daughter and the sadness she felt for not having the relationship she wanted to have with her child.
Until our conversation, the mother had ‘beat herself up’ for giving up on her own child. She assumed that her love was lost. Then I reminded the mother that she was reaching out to me and my parenting program for help. That was surely a sign of love, not indifference. She was even willing to be honest with herself and increase her calmness and patience, which was hard for her, because she knew how important and valuable her daughter was to God. Even in her moment of despair, this mother was being honest, repentant, sacrificing, valuing her daughter, and processing her relationship through a spiritual lens. She was incredibly full of true love, even though she wasn’t experiencing pleasure. That was why she was hurting so much.
What Needs To Be Said About Love
Some people are hard to love and it takes deliberate choosing and effort to love them, but through the light and power of God we can choose to love even when it feels difficult.
With the commercialization of Valentine’s Day and Hallmark romance movies, love is often trivialized and made to look self-serving and pleasure-focused. And surely, most people may not dare attach the spiritual roots to love that deserve to be attached to the eternal principle that unites all of humanity through God and the family. That should change.
Every time I do a training for parents, no matter the faiths of the people present, when we talk about increasing love for children in the moments when children are the hardest to love, the conversation carries a warmth, depth, honesty, and unity that is almost inexpressible. This is because love is a transformational truth of nature that runs deeper than our blood-filled hearts. Where is love? It is in our spiritual hearts. That is why it matters most to everyone!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Nicholeen’s next parenting training, “10 Habits For Building Better Family Bonds,” is online. See details here!