The first CD I ever bought was a Christian rap group’s album: DC Talk’s Free at Last. One of the songs, “Luv is a verb,” was the catalyst to the way I’ve tried to view love throughout my life. As a result of this song, various things I’ve read, observations I’ve made, and wisdom I’ve gleaned from those whose experience far surpasses mine, I fully believe that real love is an action (or series of actions), not a feeling, and something we choose to express whether we feel like it or not. Of course it’s always nicer (and easier) when the feeling is there too. I believe this applies to love for family, friends, romantic partners, and humanity in general.
Despite this wholehearted belief, however, there are times when the massive stream of tv shows, movies, music, books, and magazines that talk about and treat love as if it were a feeling, plays its toll on my psyche.
I was reminded again of the notion that love is not a feeling from reading Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. He reminded me that real love is a commitment to love, to act lovingly, and to act for the betterment of the other person whether we feel like it at any particular moment or not. I think this idea is particularly important when it comes to romantic relationships, probably partly because most of the false information we receive about love from the media relates to romantic love.
Peck asserts that sooner or later all couples fall out of “love” (in a similar way that they “fall” in love) and it is at this point that real love either begins or never gets a chance to really live. Real love, love that is a verb, takes choice and action – it involves our will – it is us making a decision to love.
I think if people really knew and believed this, if we were taught it from childhood and saw examples of it throughout our lives divorce rates would be a heck of a lot lower*, affairs would be nearly non-existent, and couples who made a conscious decision to be together would stay together instead of questioning the relationship and walking away for something seemingly more appealing or in search of that excitement and rush of falling in love.
I like as well, Peck’s thought that although our feelings of love toward people can be “unbounded,” our “capacity to be loving is limited” and, therefore, we must carefully choose to whom we direct our will to love. Reflecting on it, I think this knowledge and choice brings freedom: an ease of conscience. I can choose to direct my love to my family, my close friends, my partner, and on a smaller scale, humanity. It also allows me to not feel guilty for those I make the conscious choice not to ‘spend’ my love on. It frees me from the fear of infidelity as well – if I choose to love my partner and know that the feeling of falling in love is nothing more than that I know also that the allure is nothing compared to the security of knowing I have chosen a person worthy of receiving my will to love and that that person has chosen me.
* I don’t know Peck’s thoughts on this, but I think it’s a different story when there are forms of abuse, etc. and the abusive partner is unwilling or not making the choice to change. I’d see that as making a conscious decision to withdraw love (which, in a sense and in some circumstances I suppose could be a form of true love in and of itself).