More than a feelin’

The fruit of the spirit is love

By Brooke Stacia Demott

Unrealistic ideas of love have been spoon-fed to us from childhood.

It’s easy to believe that love exists within the feverish intensity of an explicitly sexual hour of prime-time television, because that’s what we see. These false realities are dangerously implausible, setting us up to expect our own experiences with love to be a frenzy of whirlwind emotion.

Even though we know it isn’t real, we can’t get enough. We learn to believe a lot of lies about love, and to crave this false reality. Hollywood is a lousy tutor, but a skilled drug dealer.

Sexually charged, dramatic love affairs gradually become the expectation until the lines between love and fantasy are blurred. Love is reduced to an event, or series of encounters, instead of a lifetime of sacrificial giving.

Worse, we find that our drive for sensual experiences begins to supersede our enthusiasm for true connection. Movies, books, music and pornography lure us with promises of satisfaction, and pry away any desire for commitment. Instead of pursuing deep intimacy, we exchange it for base sensuality, and wonder why we aren’t happy. As C.S. Lewis puts it, we settle for mud pies in an alley in lieu of a holiday by the sea.

Consequently, most of us approach love more like parasites than philanthropists. We try to get as much as we can, instead of giving as much as we should. When we see people as a means to an end and as mere vessels to deliver our happiness, we are not loving them and we aren’t happy.

Eleven years ago, I met my husband Brian. His steady, intentional pursuit of me didn’t fit my picture of “love” — the fast-paced, keep-you-guessing, jealousy-infused sort that breaks your heart a thousand times.

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to think. I was selfish and demanding; but the more I asked for, the more he gave. He seemed to have an endless reserve to draw from.

Brian knew God, and God poured His love out through Brian so liberally that it overflowed into my life and began to drown my selfishness. I realized the riches buried in his heart — a deep understanding of sacrificial love. God used Brian to teach me how to love; and in real love, there is real happiness.

Love is essential to our spiritual, emotional, and physical health. Love brings peace of mind, reduces stress, and gives us hope for the future. Studies demonstrate that kids with loving parents are far healthier and more successful adults. People in loving marriages live longer, happier, and more productive lives.

Love must be defined in a way that applies to everyone in our lives — spouses, yes, but also children, employers, neighbors, even our enemies.

What is love?

“Love is patient and kind. It doesn’t envy, or boast; it isn’t proud. It doesn’t dishonor others, it isn’t self-seeking or easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.“ (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Love isn’t a feeling marked by Hollywood flair. Love is an action that heads in another person’s direction.

Love is:

— Patient: Giving people the opportunity to learn, grow and make mistakes, with gentleness and encouragement. Love is willing to help someone to their feet again and again.

— Kind, not jealous: Kindness means providing for someone’s needs. When you love someone, you’ll give them what they need and not be envious of what they have.

— Humble, not prideful: Love looks to benefit others, and elevates the accomplishments and character of someone else. Love is their biggest fan.

— Uses words to encourage, not injure.

— Keeping a level head: Losing your temper is a sign of selfishness. Exploding on someone else says, “How dare you interrupt my happiness!” Love doesn’t think it’s the most important person in the room.

— Keeps no record of wrongs: Love is nothing if not forgiving. A willingness to forgive, a desire to restore, is a true indication that love reigns in your heart.

Love seeks the truth and rejects anything less. Love withstands any trial, believes for the best, hopes in the future, and endures until the end. Love does not “run out of steam.”

• Brooke Stacia Demott is a columnist with In Good Health newspaper. Got a question for Demott? Feel free to email her at brooketo@aol.com.

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