Love isn’t a feeling, though there are many feelings that come with love – joy, longing, delight, anguish, frustration, heartbreak. And when we take love to be a feeling we rob ourselves of any agency when it comes to loving. The feeling has gone we say. I don’t love him any more.
”But, as the psychologist Erich Fromm teaches us, “Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision?”
When we start to see love as a verb, we are given the possibility and responsibility of loving free of our demands that we must feel a particular way. And, in doing so, we allow ourselves the possibility of loving not to get something, but as a gift to match the gift we receive by being loved. This is the path that allows us to love strangers we have never met before, people who are wildly different from us, and to love those close-in without needing proof of our lovability in return.
It may be that this path – loving as a verb – is what will eventually help us humans take care of those who we cast out, and those parts of ourselves that cast out also.
Lizzie Winn and I take up exactly this topic in this week’s Turning Towards Life, titled ‘They Just Look Like Love‘. In it we talk about Erich Fromm, and a wonderful quote from Stephen R Covey, and about the magical properties of simple practices for loving one another (like making a morning cup of tea for the person you live with who for whom you don’t feel love). And we begin with an excerpt from Rebecca Solnit’s new book ‘Cinderella Liberator’.
You can also catch our prior episode, ‘Walking Away During Supper‘, in which we talk about men and women, our stories about what men are supposed to be, and how the choices both men and women make about how to be men ripple out through our families, workplaces and community.