February is referred to as the month of love and romance. Chances are that you have spotted heart decorations nearly everywhere, and gotten your fill of jewelry, chocolate and teddy bear commercials. All of these are signs of the culture’s idea of love. But, is this really a true depiction of authentic love?
Today’s societal norms seem to confuse people about real love. It portrays love as a strong emotional bond. When you are “in love,” you should follow your feelings; live for the moment; do what you want. Yet, when a person does that, their heart usually breaks. No wonder so many of us — young and old alike — can find it difficult to find love.
The church teaches us that love is the fundamental and innate vocation of all human persons. It is the core of our being; our most basic passion. In fact, God created us out of love for love. That is why everyone longs for the sentimental feelings associated with love.
Love is more than a passion. It’s more than a feeling. While it may begin with feelings, it is meant to expand and flourish beyond oneself towards another person.
How does that true love happen? With a decision to will the good of another. Choosing to provide a greater good for someone, with no expectation to receive anything in return, is more involved and more meaningful.
But love can still go deeper. The highest form of love happens when you are willing to sacrifice your life for another person. It is the kind of love that Jesus revealed to us, shared with us and commanded us to have for each other. It means that you freely make a complete gift of yourself to the person you love.
The most perfect form of human love is the most difficult to express. That is why we have to lean into God if we want to love at His level. Only God can empower us to love with this perfection by blessing us with grace and mercy. The ability to lay down one’s life for another requires supernatural assistance. In theological terminology, we call that charity.
Clearly, it is difficult to withstand the societal message to live for the moment and do what feels good. The media certainly aren’t telling us to control our emotions, cultivate friendships and live in holiness. But, that is exactly what we need to do if we want love to have meaning in our life. We have to learn how to make sacrifices for the sake of others and find joy in becoming sincere gifts of self for the betterment of those from whom we seek affection.
Alice Heinzen, Director of the Office for Marriage and Family Life