More than half a decade ago, I tried to summarize all my thoughts about love and its offshoot issues in one comprehensive essay. I was a sixteen year-old back then and those were a sixteen year-old’s thoughts. Now, I am a young adult and have a more organized – if not better – perspective on this subject matter than my teenage self. So, I decided to write this “updated” essay, to add more to the original essay or to revise or improve some of its contents. Here goes nothin’…
Is love easily analyzed or defined? No. I don’t think so. In fact, love is something so complex. Our viewpoint on love varies, depending on our own unique individual encounters and experiences. It has different facets. It is more than an emotion. More than a concept. And there might be something more in the saying “Love makes the world go around” than a cliché.
Let me first try to define or conceptualized “Love” in its purest and truest form. And it’s God. God is Love. Not only is God loving, but God himself is Love. The truest and purest form of Love is found in God’s nature and nowhere else. And since it is impossible to fully comprehend God’s nature in our lifetime and present mental capabilities, then it is therefore impossible to fully comprehend what Love really is. Only God knows. And only God can really love purely and truly.
As humans, we are created in God’s image. Thus, as creatures created in God’s image, we might be able to wield some of his qualities… or, rather, to wield POOR IMITATIONS of God’s qualities. God loves, and we humans also love. We have some idea of what love is, but considerably fall short on the concept of God’s Love. Nonetheless, as humans, we love, in our own limited and flawed ways. We have different forms of “love”. Affection to others. As comrades loyally and passionately having each other’s backs (philia or brotherly love). The concept of lovers (eros or romantic/sexual love). Parents’ love for their children, and vice versa. Several form and complicated hybrids of these forms, and within these forms, different and indescribable intensities. You can never perfectly diagram these facets of human love. In some ways, these forms of human love have some ingredients of nobility that gives us an idea on how God’s love might function. People willing to sacrifice even their lives for their friends or families. Parents lavishing their children with love even if they’re ungrateful and selfish brats. A lover’s readiness to give up his own happiness for the best or for the happiness of the person he or she loves. Etc. However, human love will always be imperfect. Human love is conditional. It is limited. And it always expects something in return.
God is Love. He is the only one that has perfect idea on what Love is, since it is who He is. And He is the only one that can wield in perfectly.
God’s love is unconditional – no, let me correct that – God’s love is certainly conditional… but He was the one who fulfilled those conditions so that we can enjoy the experience and benefits of His love . His love is more than unconditional.
When a human loves, it is always limited to his capabilities and strength. Though he might want to give the most expensive gift to his loved one, but he won’t be able to do so if he can’t afford it. He might desire to be beside his beloved always, but it is impossible for him to have his eyes on his beloved 24/7. His weakness limits him to perfectly protect his beloved. However, God’s omnipotence and sovereignty assures that His love can’t be limited. Nothing or no one can frustrate His love. If He wants to give someone He loves a particular gift, He is able to give it. He is able to be by His beloved’s side always. And His protection is absolutely perfect.
With God’s love being unconditional, He does not need anything in return. We have nothing to give in return for His love anyway. Love God back or not, God will remain as He is. Though, whoever God gives his love to, he or she can’t help but to love God back.
And only those that saw and experienced God’s love can truly wield love… or, at least, as close as a human can on truly wielding love (since, again, only God can truly love). God’s love has never been more expressed when His only Son was incarnated in this world. The Latter brought and taught outlandish concepts such as “loving your enemies” and “turning the other cheek.” And then He was humiliated, tortured, and crucified on the cross. All that He endured out of love. To save His children from Hell, He had undergone Hell for himself. So, that they can reconcile with His Father and to enjoy experiencing being Truly Beloved. Take note that He is not obliged to do it. His being God will not be lessened if He didn’t do it or be increased if He did. He just did it out of love.
Those people who Jesus died for – people who encountered and received what True Love is – will have their hearts filled with love and gratitude to God, ready to do anything for Him. They would be enabled to carry on the outlandish concepts he taught like “loving your enemies” and “turning the other cheek”, because they love God and want to please him and because God’s own love itself is overflowing through them. Again, only those that have been Truly Loved can truly love. To love the unlovable. To wield the kind of love that the Apostle Paul wrote in the famous Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13 to those who are not aware of their Bible). It’s not as perfect as God’s, but it’s the closest thing we humans are able to truly love.
Human love per se in all its forms – romantic, brotherly, parental, etc. – are flawed and, in a sense, selfish. But combined with this God-given Love, only then they become special.
Now from this point, let me concentrate on humans’ – or, at least, the recent generations’ – most favorite kind of love (thanks largely to Shakespeare and pop culture): romantic love (eros). Why is it the most favorite? Maybe because it is the most fun. And also most natural, since human physiology is a main reason of its being. God created us to be attracted to the opposite sex, and our biological make-up ensures that we do. So romantic feelings are mostly because of chemicals pumped by the body. Is it more than that? The answer is a complicated “Yes” and “No.”
Let’s look at the “No” aspect first. I had already argued in a past essay that romantic love is the same all over – different types of attraction, different intensities, but same emotions. Emotions that are mostly triggered because of the God-designed bodily chemicals. And when the chemicals wear off, the emotional high also wears off. So, at this sense, romantic love is nothing more than God-designed bodily chemicals.
It gets complicated because of the “Yes” aspect. As I’ve mentioned in the past paragraph, these emotions (of romantic love) are mostly triggered by chemicals. BUT these chemicals are (definitely) triggered by external stimuli. Usually, we “fall in love” because several factors or conditions are favorable in a “butterfly effect” (review your Chaos Theory if you are unfamiliar with the term) way rather than the person per se – though, he or she is of course a major factor, but just not the sole factor. Given a favorable person in a favorable setting in a favorable time in a favorable circumstance (and other favorable applicable variables), getting attracted or “falling in love” happens. And when the conditions become unfavorable – i.e. long-distance, revelation of dark secrets, external (outside of the two parties) variables, found someone better, etc. - we “fall out of love.” Emotional high wears off. Romantic love all depends on how fast and hard the chemicals that make us “fall in love” can be stimulated by the conditions or external stimuli, and how long the conditions or external stimuli can sustain the emotional high. E.g. a girl might have “fallen in love” with a boy, because he came as a “knight in shining armor” during the loneliest part of her life. That’s why we “fall in love” and “fall out of love” a few or several times in our lives (until we fall in love for final time, but I am getting ahead of myself). And the intensities on each time are different, depending on the variables present. E.g. a boy might have “fallen in love” with a girl, but due to their young age, the intensity is mere infatuation. Yup, romantic love occurs and has different intensities due to complex sets of conditions.
I am not saying that there is no such thing as “One True Love” or soulmate or Mr. Right or Ms. Right. Indeed, I believe that God destines two people to be together. It happens not only because of favorable conditions that make them “fall in love”, but because of PERFECT conditions. And since it is perfect, there will be no emergence of “unfavorable conditions” (even if it appears to be as such) that would make them “fall out of love”. Perfect person in a perfect setting in a perfect time in a perfect circumstance – made possible because of the Master Matchmaker. The intensity of this romantic love would lead to marriage.
As much as one can, fight the feeling of romantic love, never yield to it. Since if it’s true or too strong anyway, it will break through in the end; it will overflow from the heart. People who allow themselves to “fall in love” easily, who rush into their decisions, become “romantic love junkies”, people who actually “fall in love with falling in love” rather than “falling in love with someone.” They “fall in love” just for the sake of “falling in love”. They rush to “fall in love”. Since it is rushed, it is likely that the conditions will become unfavorable, and when they do, these people get their heart broken. To fill the pain, they would be in a rush to “fall in love” again. And will get their heart broken again. And so on. Junkies indeed. So sad. “There are many people who believe in serial love, loving one person after another,” as Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago (the most entertaining senator in Philippine history) mused, “I don’t think it is good for our mental health.”
I always believe that when you get your heart broken, you have nobody to blame but yourself since it is you who allowed yourself to fall in love. So as much as one can, fight the feeling and never yield until the feeling breaks through. At least, by that, when you indeed fall in love with someone, you can be sure that you fell in love hard, that you can’t help it now but to go all in, risking even heartbreak, since, as a favorite quote of mine goes, “[Falling in] love is giving someone the power to destroy you, but trusting them not to.”
When that time comes – a time when you are willing to risk it all – you would see every girl (or boy, if the reader is a girl) paling in comparison to her (or him). You would feel uncomfortably incomplete without her. You would be oblivious to the rest of the world when you’re with her. You don’t care about anything anymore but to be with her. There will be nothing or nobody else better or more important. This type of falling in love is what Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago means when she said, “It’s like measles, you know. You only get it once in your lifetime and you are immune forever.” This is falling in love for the final time… the good kind of falling in love since it is true.
This usually leads to marriage. I used to roll my eyes on marriage. That’s when I knew nothing better. Then I learned that in marriage is where human love as a lens to have a glimpse on God’s love is at its best. With the passage in Ephesians 5:25-30 (read it if you aren’t familiar with it. It’s just beautiful), we can see how marriage was used as an analogy – the most perfect analogy possible – for Christ’s own love for His Bride (the Church). Before, since I was a kid, I never thought of myself as someone that would eventually marry. Maybe it was a possibility that I would, but I never entertained the thought. “I will never marry. It is more advantageous to be a bachelor,” were my usual words. But after really seeing how special marriage can really be, now, maybe for the first time in my life, I start to really like getting married someday. To have someone hand-in-hand in the journey for True Happiness that is only found in Him. To live out the analogy that would make me feel and appreciate greatly the greatness of God’s love.
But I also believe that you don’t need to romantically fall in love to get married. Some couples even fall in love only when they’re already married; learning to love each other after getting married. Romantically falling in love before marrying is a convenience of modern times that the majority enjoys. Historically, marriage is not always because of so. Marriages get prearranged. There were times that a couple would see each other for the first time on the wedding day itself. But these marriages, surprisingly, work. Ironically, more often than not nowadays, those however that married because solely of romantic feelings have marriages that aren’t successful. Mostly because these marriages are selfish and not God-centered. But, I believe, that even without romantic love, a marriage will be successful if there is the kind of love Christianity has (which I already talked about many paragraphs ago) in it. At some point of the marriage, the “favorable conditions” that brought the couple to “fall in love” might even disappear. But the marriage will be sustained because of the Christian love they have for God and each other. But, of course, the best marriages are those that have both the high of romantic love AND the God-centeredness of Christian love. And we have to be thankful that falling in love before marrying is of fashion nowadays instead of prearranged marriage. I, for one, am thankful for such convenience.
I still can’t talk much about marriage because I am yet to experience. So I leave it at that.
In fact, I think I’ll leave this essay at this. This “upgraded” essay on “Love... and the Related Topics” is long enough already. A Part 3 might be written in another half a decade – give or take a few years. Maybe I would have more ideas or understanding about the topic at hand by that time. Who knows, I might even be married already at that point.