Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Love and in-Love by Lincoln Davis

I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference (which we all intuitively recognize) between the two following statements:

"I love you."

"I am in love with you."

The first statement is the sort of thing one wants to hear said to them; there is nothing like knowing that the affections and kindnesses of another person are directed at us. The second is the kind of thing one wants to be able to say - being in love with someone is a more self-referential feeling; it relates to the joy we get from a love relationship. Essentially, "I love you" is directed at the other, and "I am in love with you" is directed at the self.

Perhaps the best test of this distinction relates to how each feeling plays out when there is strain on the relationship. If a couple has quarreled, love relates to the concern that each person has for the other after the quarrel: "I hope he's not hurt," "How can I help her?," etc. After that same quarrel, in-love relates to our self interest: "How could someone I care about do this to me?," or "Will she leave me because of what I said?" In any given relationship and in any give struggle, both love and in-love may be involved, but they are distinct.

Whether or not the Greeks had any word or phrase for in-love (and I am no Greek whiz), my English version of the Bible does not tell me anywhere to be in love with anyone. We are to love God, we are to love one another, we are to love our wives, we are to love our children, but there is no imperative toward this self-referential in-loveness. That of course does not mean that in-love is a negative, but only that it is unnecessary.

Yet we are all taught about the desirability of in-love. I can see why; it's pretty heady stuff. The great couples of literature and history were as much in love as they loved each other, and the combination of the two surely makes for an ecstasy unequaled. But while Romeo and Juliet may have loved each other and truly cared for one another, it was only that they were in love that made them willing to kill themselves when each thought the other dead. Love will make you willing to die for someone, but only in-love makes you want to die because someone is no longer able to serve you.

I think love a much more noble thing than in-love; love, as St. Paul says, is patient and kind, gentle, not arrogant - but in in-love is hasty, impetuous, desperate, needy, insatiable. Love sustains; in-love consumes. Surely in many lives the greatest memories come from the times when we were most deeply in love with someone. But just as surely do the moments of greatest misery come from that same feeling - the greatest peaks and the greatest valleys come from the same rollercoaster.

Because in-love is self-referential, and depends upon what others can do for you, it is out of the individual's control. When others love you, in-love thrives, swells, exults in itself. But when others cease to love you, in-love is helpless, and can only ruminate on its own misery. Love, however, is active. As my uncle says (if I remember correctly), love is a transitive verb - it takes an object, and it serves that object. Where in-love is weak, love thrives. Love does not depend on what others do for you, but delights in what you can do for others. And love, again as St. Paul says, never ends.

I wonder if, perhaps, an initial act of love begins to create in-love: a man shows affection toward a woman, and when his affection becomes to her not just a bonus, not just gravy, but a necessity that she expects, she begins to feel that she is in love with him. I'd like to think of love as a means, and in-love as an end. However, one takes the means of love to serve the end in others. Because love serves others, it does not aspire to create in-loveness in the heart of the lover, but rather in the heart of the beloved. We love others so that they might have in themselves the joy of in-love.

I would like to be in love, but I think it much more important to love. And any joy I get from in-love is out of my control; I would rather take hold of what I know I can and must do and choose to love someone. If God were simply in love with us, I doubt He would have died for us, because what did we ever do to serve Him? Rather, we love because He first loved us. Love, and not in-love, is capable of redeeming the world. And God, perhaps, is the only Person with Whom it is safe to always be in love - He will never abandon, never forsake. Perfect love, it says, casts out fear.

(Taken from Lincoln Davis’ Friday, November 23, 2007 post at http://lincolndavis.blogspot.com/)

I think it is excellent. I will add my following comment.

There is a problem. That is, to the guy, there is no difference in the statements.

He is "in love" with the girl. He does not know that he is "in love." He thinks that he "loves" the girl and so he says "I love you." She wants to be loved so she believes him and thinks that he loves her. So she ends up "in love" with him and thinks she loves him and so says "I love you." He believes her. They are both "getting" and think that they are both "giving."

With love and respect,

Jim Wilson

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