By: Sarah Nyhan
Do I love you? Is it really my place to tell you that I love you? Or would it be better if you told me that I loved you. In other words, only you can tell me if I love you?
That probably won’t hold a lot of water with many, but I think it holds enough. From experience, the people who told me they loved me have been the ones who hurt me the most.
So now I feel rather presumptuous saying “I love you” anymore. Most will probably say I’m reading too much into it. But now that I am learning what love really is, and maybe more what it isn’t, I don’t feel like tossing that word around as flippantly as I used to – and I was reserved with it even before. But not reserved enough.
“Love”, as in “I love you”, is a verb. Actions. Not just a feeling inside you. I can have feelings of affection towards someone, but that doesn’t mean I love them. It took me a long time to learn that. To also learn that just because someone wanted me, that had very little correlation with whether they loved me.
One time I was in a relationship with someone who speaks Spanish fluently. I remember asking the person how to say “I love you” in Spanish. They told me to say, “Te quiero”. Later on, much to my surprise, I found out that the literal translation of “te quiero” is “I want you”; whereas “te amo” literally means “I love you”.
In American English, “I want you” commonly has a different connotation compared to “I love you”. But I think most Americans probably mean “I want you” when they say “I love you”. And so now that phrase makes me feel uncomfortable since my thoughts on love have changed so much. When most people tell me they love me, now it feels like they are requesting something from me. I feel like their “I love you” is a gun holding me hostage a lot of the time. Like it’s a demand more than an assurance.
True love is a gift. A real gift. A free gift in all senses of the word. What do I give to others that is truly free of any expectations?
I heard someone say that you wouldn’t have to convince people to believe if they actually knew they were loved. I don’t think that is an intellectual knowing. I think there is a deeper, richer level of knowing that is beyond the reach of our intellect. Preverbal children know love on that level. It is very connected to feeling safe in another person’s heart. It’s where your mind isn’t confused. Where dissonance isn’t constantly following you around and popping out to steal every last moment you try so badly to enjoy.
Our only hope is God, of course. But not like before. Not working so hard to love. Not reading the Bible, or praying, or otherwise doing more.
No, I find the only way love organically flows out of me for and to others is when my heart has been refreshed by Spirit. And through others when it is genuine.
I can’t give away what I don’t have. Speaks to a lot.