Define Love Challenge : My Entry

Vocal Media Recently challenged its writers to write a personal reflection exploring the complexities of love. I wasn’t sure if I was going to submit to this one, but after reading a few of the excellent entries there, I decided to give it a go. Below is my essay entitled, “Love is . . . Multifaceted.

Photo by Lucas van Oort on Unsplash

To me, love is a word impossible to define. Have you ever looked it up in the dictionary? I did. There are twenty-three definitions, fourteen as a noun and nine as a verb, but they don’t even scratch the surface. So how does one define love? What is the essence of this captivating word we toss around haphazardly, like so many dollar bills at a county fair?

When I was a kid, the church told me – quite emphatically – love is a verb with only one meaning: To be willing to give up your life to save someone else’s, the way Jesus did for all of humanity. A perfectly natural explanation for a child who only sees love as a bond between family members. Of course I’d be willing to die for my parents or my siblings, and they for me. So is love nothing more than self-sacrifice?

At seventeen, I thought for sure I’d found love in a relationship. Like many who might be reading this, my first, “love”, was an experience unlike any other. I remember thinking death would be preferable to living without her. I literally ached for her, desperate for even the tiniest bit of attention she was willing to spare for me. I was a puppy whose entire existence lay in waiting for the mistress to come home and play with me. Is love, then, simply a feeling of powerful, emotional attachment? Or is it just an extension of lust? Just a step beyond the emotional range of teenage hormones and physical attraction?

At nineteen, my first child came into the world. Looking into his little face, I had never felt so strongly for any living thing, and I wouldn’t again for another eleven years, when my second son was born. I knew I’d do anything, and I mean anything, for this little man. For him, if I had to, I’d betray my most sacred beliefs, destroy any link between myself and any other person alive. I’d spit in the face of society’s moral codes and subject myself to all manner of misery, just to make sure he was happy. It’s almost scary, in a way, what you would do for your child.

But that isn’t all love is either. What I mean to say, is these examples are only small samples of the many faces making up the myriagon I believe love is. Because for every face love shows us, it has an opposite side too.

Love is both kind and cruel. When your friends and family offer words of encouragement because you’ve been feeling down and depressed, that is love. When they tell you how much you mean to them, and how empty their lives would be without you, that is love. Yet, when one of my closest friends refused to tell me what I wanted to hear, refused to be gentle, and refused to simply “go with the flow” to tell me exactly what I needed to hear, despite the pain it caused, that is love too.

Love is passionate and cold. I’ve picked my children up when they’ve fallen, kissed their booboos, wiped away their tears and hugged away their sadness. That is love, but I have also had to take away their play things, refuse to give them something they want, and pretend to not care at times when real tears have coursed down their cheeks, because I know my children needed discipline, and that is love too.

Love is loquacious and silent. Every week day, my wife comes home from teaching middle school and tells me things about her day. She shares her interests, her desires, her goals and ambitions, and that is love. Yet sometimes, as in all relationships, we argue. We say things that are meant to twist and jab, pinch and cut. Afterward, we’ll often spend hours not speaking to each other, not because we have nothing left to say, but because neither of us want to say something more to hurt the other, and that is love too.

Love is freeing and restricting. I don’t have to pretend to be anyone other than myself when I’m around my friends and family. I can laugh when I want, cry when I want, be grumpy or cheerful, selfish or benevolent, it doesn’t matter. I can let it all go with them, and that is love. But I care how they feel too, so I can’t scream at my daughter when she plays in the sink even though I’ve told her a hundred times not to. I never call my wife foul names or curse at her no matter how angry I get with her. I don’t break promises with my friends, even when it becomes inconvenient to keep my word later on, and that is love too.

Love takes as much as it gives. It is selfish and charitable. It causes the worst pains and heals the deepest wounds. It is beautiful and ugly, trusting and jealous. It brings us to the mountain tops and drags us through muddy trenches. It embraces your weaknesses while sneering at your strengths. It helps and encumbers, remains steadfast and grows tired. It’s open minded and accepting of our differences and closed to bigotry. It’s Spanish Fly and Ipecac Syrup.

Mostly, love just . . . is.


2 responses to “Define Love Challenge : My Entry”

  1. This is such a beautiful reflection. I am certain there are many who have experienced just the feelings that you have so eloquently described. Excellent!

    1. Thank you so much Kristy! I whole-heartedly agree!

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