What is Love?

C.S. Lewis once stated that, “love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” This definition, this image of love is certainly not what today’s culture puts forth as romantic love. Instead, through the stories portrayed on the television screen; the descriptive sagas told on the pages of novels; the upbeat song lyrics of single hits, the sensual advertising in magazines, newspapers, commercials and billboards; romantic love is portrayed as a feeling of passion, desire for affection and lust for beauty.  Today, the true definition of the word love (as it applies between a man and a woman) is redefined and replaced by the United States’ popular culture as a feeling, fueled by whims of emotional and physical attraction.

Love is generically thought of as a feeling. Webster’s Dictionary defines love as an, “affection based on admiration or benevolence, the affection and tenderness felt by lovers, to hold dear, to feel a lover’s passion, devotion of tenderness for, to feel affection or experience desire, take pleasure in.” [1] So love, something that is vital to every healthy relationship between a man and a woman, is based by our culture on fallible, affectionate feelings. What happens when someone no longer feels affection for a person? Are they out of love? Were they ever in love in the first place?  Everyone can testify to the fact that feelings are unsustainable: they are susceptible to impulse and constant fluctuation. In a relationship, there will be disagreement and frustrations, and each person’s feelings are not a solid basis for their true love for each other. If a relationship is to stand and not fade, its’ foundation must be based on something stronger and more stable than feeling—commitment. Feelings of affection, feelings of tenderness and feelings of passion, however, are placed by the culture in a much higher position than commitment.

Along with feelings, physical beauty is irrevocably linked by the culture to love. The obsession with beauty is evidenced all around us in movies and advertising. Through these images of beauty, people (especially girls) are taught that the result of beauty is love. Hannah Farver, a young, Christian author puts is like this, “We think beauty will buy us love…would beauty be important if we didn’t also want the admiration that supposedly follows being beautiful? We think beauty equals love, and love is a cause all of us want to get behind. We’ve confused beauty into some kind of cheap replacement for real love and satisfaction.”[2] Being physically attractive to the person you love and expressing your deep commitment to that person through physical intimacy both play a vital role in the husband/wife relationship; sexual relations between a man and wife are part of God’s perfect design. However, beauty and physical attraction do not deserve the ‘end all’ role that they receive from pop-culture. Physical beauty, as defined by the culture, is fragile, and at a certain point it fades. A relationship founded on physical attraction alone is unsustainable; love is deeper than the skin.

Love is meant to be a commitment, a promise, a dedication, fueled by, as C.S. Lewis stated, “a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good.” But today—through the influence of our culture—the definition of love is a flame that bursts into being from the kindling of emotional sensation and lust; but when the flame is not fed by the solid wood of steady commitment, the flame becomes a flicker and dies a quick death among the ashes.

 


[1] Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary – Definition of love

[2] Uncrompromising: A Heart Claimed by a Radical Love, by Hannah Farver, Chapter 1, pp. 26-27

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