I’ll always remember celebrating Valentine’s Day in fourth grade. That was the year I had an over-sized crush on brown-eyed, freckle-faced Freddy. So did all the other girls in my class, for that matter.
Poor Freddy. Other boys his age played tetherball and baseball during recess, but he dashed ‘round and ‘round the schoolyard chased by a pack of giggling females, like a fox pursued by a dozen happy hounds.
I knew the competition was fierce for Freddy’s affection, but I figured I’d won the contest when he handed me a Valentine that read, “I’m not clowning around. I love you.” My heart beat faster and my face flushed pink. Of all the girls in the room, he’d chosen me. True love at last!
Sadly, my love bubble burst a few minutes later when my best friend whispered, “Look at my Valentine from Freddy!”
I could scarcely believe my eyes. The message read, I’m not clowning around. I love you.
Within minutes, I discovered that Freddy had given the same card to every girl in the class. It was the boy’s undoing. The fourth-grade females’ feelings for freckle-faced Freddy fizzled on February 14th. Try saying that while munching on a mouthful of dry crackers!
Freddy obviously knew nothin’ about true love. Neither did I. Call me fickle: Freddy fell off my emotional radar as fast as ice cream melts on a sizzling summer day, and I turned my affections elsewhere.
Time has passed, and I’ve learned a few things about love since then. Some of those lessons lie in the romantic realm, but most do not. The majority flow from day-to-day relationships with family and friends, business associates, volunteers with whom I partner in ministry endeavors, neighbors, and even strangers I meet while running errands. Here are five such lessons:
- Love is more than a good feeling. You’ve likely heard that before, but it bears repetition. Warm fuzzy feelings fluctuate at certain times of the month. They vacillate when we’re overtired, overstressed, or hurt by an unkind word or deed.
True love is not based on feelings. It remains committed when passion wanes and steadfast when it would rather stomp from the room. It remains grounded, firmly planted in the midst of emotional ups and downs.
- Love listens. This is a toughie for me, especially when someone interrupts my to-do list. I tend to continue working while muttering an occasional, “Uh-huh” or “Wow—no kidding!” Doing so communicates that my task matters more than people.
True love makes a conscious effort to give one’s undivided attention to another, or it suggests a more appropriate time to meet when full attention can be given. It cares enough to listen with both ears and to look the other person in the eye.
- Love accepts. All too often, we tend to stay within our comfortable circles where everyone shares similar interests and beliefs. We hesitate to step beyond our safety walls because, heaven forbid, doing so might mean encountering a person different than ourselves. That might prove scary or annoying!
True love accepts others despite the differences, and it does so without passing judgment. It seeks to learn from the differences and to understand the other’s perspective.
Some of my closest friends are women from other cultures. We differ in many ways, but my life is richer for knowing them.
- Love shows honor. In a phone interview with relationship expert Dr. Gary Smalley, he said honor is the key to healthy relationships. “Honor means ‘attaching high value to others, regarding them as priceless treasures,’” he said. “Think of a scale of 1 to 10. If you place yourself and your needs at 8 or 9 on this scale of importance, always place others at 10.”
True love honors even when it hurts. It follows the Scripture mandate to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10 NIV).
In real life, this might mean postponing a vacation to help an aging parent. It might mean sacrificing a dinner out and using that money to buy a haircut for a single mom instead. What might honoring others look like to you?
- Love is wiling to say, “I’m sorry.” Who likes to admit when she’s in the wrong? Not I. I’d rather save face. Perhaps you can relate.
True love chooses a better way. It sacrifices face to save relationships. If we’ve dishonored someone through selfish behavior, we must demonstrate love by seeking to repair the damage with words such as, “You’re too valuable to be treated like this. Will you forgive me?”
When I ponder true love, three simple words come to mind: God is love. He’s our example. The more we get to know Him, the more we’re able to demonstrate true love—not the fickle type—to others.