Looking for love? Stop. You’ll need a definition first.
Love and lust are oppositional words; one cannot exist in the other. You can’t have a little bit of lust in your love, and you can’t have a little bit of love in your lust. The two words maintain a polarity that cannot be equalized. Whereas love is internal, lust is external. Whereas love is past, present, and future, lust is the present at the expense of the future, and in ignorance of the past. Whereas love is total, lust is incomplete. Where love gives, lust takes away. Whereas love is sacrificial, lust asks, “what can you do for me?” Love is holistic and lust is partial—there ought be no confusion.
But for how diametric these concepts are, most individuals do not recognize a difference. There is some modern emulsifier that suspends particles of love and lust in the same solution, and we perceive them as one. Take any song on the radio that speaks of love and replace each “love” with lust. Then notice how much more sense the song makes. People don’t notice that the concept of love is incongruent with most songs because they lack a guiding definition. I like the line from the famous Beatles song, “Love is all you need”, and though it is true, what good is that information if you don’t know what love actually is, and what it does?
The hamster wheel of lust
People spend their entire lives searching for love because everyone knows that without it, life would have no meaning. But in the race to not be left out in love, few bother to define their goal, and few reach it. That may seem like a bold claim, but look at the totality of our lives: we can no longer expect to last with our spouses or our families. The places where love should be most prevalent are the same places we are running from, or refusing responsibility for. If more than a few people reached their goal of love, our future would be much brighter; people could expect to last with their spouses and have the security of loving families throughout their lives. But that is not the case today. The wedding vows have been tacitly altered to accommodate lust, not love. Instead of ’til death do us part, we think, “’til like do us not.” But we call it love because we don’t have a definition for love.
Your relationships and your actions could be lust disguised as love, but you’d never know until you defined love. Or until your life falls to pieces, whichever comes first. As it stands, everything that relates to romance is labeled under the umbrella of love. People who have sex with each other are known as “lovers”. Couples who have affection for each other are said to be “in love”. And because everyone knows that love is the most important thing in the world, we walk blithely in and out of romance, leaving a trail of destruction.
The things we do for love … But would love ask us to forsake future happiness for pleasure in the moment? Would love ever suggest we ignore history to enjoy the present? If love is past, present and future in totality, then love could not stamp its name on modern romance; that would be a disgrace. If love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful, then love would be humiliated to be associated with the conditions, the incompleteness, the faithlessness, and the damage that hallmarks modern romance. But love cannot be degraded by ignorance, because it is what it is regardless of what people call it. We, however, are completely vulnerable to ignorance, and we have been degraded. If we think poison is food and eat the “food,” we will die. If we think lust is love, it will erode our future and destroy our relationships no matter how much we believe in it. Lust has and is continuing to erode our future. What will you do about it?
Love is freedom, lust is enslavement
When you take a look at our prospects in relationships, and the end result of most relationships today, it is clear that our version of “love” is incomplete. The most important and sacred thing in the world is frivolously spattered throughout our music, literature, movies, and pop culture to the point where the word “love” has been emptied of it’s original content and replaced with lust.
It is a common phenomenon throughout history that if a lie is repeated often enough, it is presumed to be true. Jews, Indians, blacks, Irish, Asians, and unborn children were/are all known to be less than human through this phenomenon. The world was indeed flat by this logic. The moon may have been made of cheese by this principle. And so too has lust become love. When something is said often enough, people lose their propensity to question it, and they lose their freedom.
Freedom is the state of total responsibility for one’s actions, which is bought by eternal vigilance, endless questioning, and the courage to act in accordance with conscience. Every other animal on earth gets to live free because they don’t pretend their responsibilities are any less than what they are, as the human species does. It just happens that our responsibilities, and privileges, are many times greater than any other animal. Our freedom has been restricted in all avenues, but most conspicuously in relationships. Instead of loving in total responsibility and freedom, we have to pay for our lust with the future; with our families; with our happiness. But the future has a funny way of becoming our reality, so it is not just the future we trade for lust, it is also the present.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? How about twenty? How about when you are 75? Will you be alone in a nursing home racked with regret, or will you be just as faithful about the future as you are now? Will you look back and say, “I’m so glad I chose a different way,” or will you use “human nature” to justify your misery? Will the fruits, faithfulness, completeness and freedom of love be the standard of your life, or will it be something less? No matter where you are at now, your future will be illuminated if you define love and make it your primary reason for being.
If you are interested in being happy, loving your life, and embracing the future, love needs your attention. It needs your examination. It needs your vigilance and your questions. Love needs you because it wants to be expressed through your life and your relationships. Love wants nothing more than to experience the richness of humanity in love. Your love is important, but it will not be present unless you define it and make it accordingly. If you want love to heal your life and bring security to your relationships, then define love in a holistic way that you can judge your actions with. If you want love, do not be deceived by lust for another moment.
*Each person must come to the meaning of love on their own, otherwise it is empty. To assist, here is a guideline:
Love: any action or thing that honors, respects, and enhances life. Catholics describe love as being Free, Total, Faithful, and Fruitful; this mnemonic is a great rubric to measure your actions by.
Photo—Gabriel S. Delgado C./Flickr