What is Love?

Posted: 10 June 2012

What is Love? It seems we all want to know. The most searched for ‘L’ term on Google is ‘love’ and the phrase ‘what is love’ continuously ranks at the top of internet search engine requests. We all know the hunger for love.

In 1978 in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, Pope John Paul II wrote, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”

Although love has become perhaps the most clichéd word on the planet, there remains something within the human person that sets them on this lifetime quest in the pursuit of this thing called love. We identify that love brings a measure of happiness that we need.

I am going to put it straight out there that love has definite qualities and I am going to say that those qualities are that love must be given freely and it must be total and faithful. Perhaps a few examples:

Imagine a man was having trouble meeting ‘Mrs Right’ so he decided to take matters into his own hands and places an ad in the newspaper to the effect that he wants a woman to love and he is willing to pay this woman to love him. Well of course that could not be love because love is not something we can buy, love must be free or we sense in ourselves that it is just not love.

Or what if you met someone and they said to you, ‘I love you so much that I want to be in a relationship with you for 5 years’, or maybe 20 years? Would you feel deep down that it was a genuine love? No. Because the big selling point about love is that it has to last a lifetime, it’s the Disney fairytale ending; only a love that lasts forever, a love that is total, is going to satisfy the human heart.

Lastly, what if you were in a relationship with someone and they came to you and said ‘look I love you very much but I have met someone else whom I also love, I would like to love both of you’. How would you tolerate that? Not very well most likely, in fact we dislike unfaithful love so much we have invented a word to describe it, infidelity, an act of disloyalty, especially in love.

But what if free, total and faithful love but was all there was? It’s a great start but if left like that the love would die.

Why? Because all we have is a framework, we need more, we need walls and a roof; love needs a sign! If I am in love I need to express my love, I need to say ‘I love you’, I need to bring a rose to the woman I love, she needs to write me a poem, we need to tell people. Our love needs to bear fruit. And not only is the fruitfulness of love an essential element of love, it is the best part of love! It is the tangible ‘stuff’ that makes love so wonderful. No one wants to live in a house that only has a nice timber frame, in fact it is not even a house, what we really desire are walls, ceiling and light fittings! Couples in love don’t share out legal affection contracts on Valentine’s Day, they give roses and chocolates, they offer the other a sign of their love! We need love to come with free, total and faithful intentions but what we really want is romance, we want to hear how special we are, how loved we are, how handsome or beautiful we are, that is fruitfulness! And of course the most wonderful sign of love is children that are literally the fruit of the love of their parents.

So we can say that love has four qualities. It must be is ever free, total, faithful and fruitful. And all four must be operating all the time. And because love equals happiness we do not want to get this love thing wrong! We do not want to base our ideals of love from a lifetime of reading Cleo magazine or listening to the Kyle & Jackie O radio show!

Only in the pursuit of this genuine free, total, faithful, fruitful love, will we discover the key that unlocks the happiness that our heart (and the heart of every human person) is longing for.