Defining Love

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Ok, I don’t really expect to define “the world’s deepest subject” in a short blog post. Nor do I feel qualified even to try. Love makes human life, human community, possible. Love separates us from the beasts.

The difficulty of defining love, however, has opened the hearts of so many people to manipulation and abuse. For many reasons, they have learned false definitions. Narcissists and other abusers use the weaknesses of these definitions. Parents, media, friends, and others carry these definitions to the minds of young people. Expectations are based on what was learned.

So, let me share what I think is the center point, the heart of love.

Love gives.

When you carefully examine the false definitions of love, you will see that they all focus on what a person gets. Out of these definitions come the words, “If you really loved me, you would do this.” Love is measured by performance. The narcissist takes.

What does the narcissist take? Everything! You name it. The things that are important in life. Time, energy, identity, sex, money, power, and so on. And those who love are supposed to give. And they are supposed to think that the narcissist loves them.

But love gives.

At the end of life, the old man or woman who shared a loving marriage says, “Oh, I received far more than I ever gave.”

Yes, when we are loved, we receive. We never take, but we do receive. And we receive the things we need. That’s why we look for love. We need it. It doesn’t have to come from a marriage, of course. Parents love. Friends love. But we need love. And love gives.

So, the narcissist is often generous at the beginning of the relationship. He knows that he has to give in order to win the heart. He gives attention, comfort, support, and gifts. The person feels important and valuable. But it doesn’t take long for things to change. Those who are not deceived will understand the meaning of the words, “After all I’ve done for you.” Narcissistic love does not give, it invests. Everything that comes has a price, an expectation.

If I could give one word of advice for young people entering into relationships, I would say to go slowly. Narcissism is revealed when the narcissist begins to wonder if the investment will pay off. The flowers, the compliments, the listening ear—they need to produce a benefit for the narcissist or he/she will become frustrated. When the demands begin, the relationship should end. The person who says, “I need you,” is not expressing love.

Some people find love, real love, to be a distant thing, an idea. Perhaps it is something others experience, they think. Everybody uses in a narcissistic culture. Everybody demands. Perhaps none of us loves the way we should.

But God “so loved the world that He gave.” You are loved. You have been loved from the beginning and, no matter what you have done, are still loved today.

Someone will read this and remember Scripture that says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” So, they say, even God expects something from us. Well, I have never felt that was an accurate translation of that verse, but if it is, what does it really say? The commandments of God are not for the purpose of God taking something from us. His desire is for our good. He wants to protect us from harm, help us live together in peace, and keep us even from harming ourselves. His commandments are for our good.

The greatest desire of a love that gives is for the other to receive. God wants us to receive His love. When He asks us to keep His commandments, He asks us to receive His loving guidance and care. Take advantage of His wisdom. He knows us and this life better than we do.

Can you judge love? Well, we have to, don’t we? We have to know if it is real. The question is whether it gives. Are the actions self-serving, filled with expectations and obligations? That’s not love.

Read 1 Corinthians 13 again. Look at how God defines love. Love gives.

1 Comment

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One response to “Defining Love

  1. “The commandments of God are not for the purpose of God taking something from us. His desire is for our good. He wants to protect us from harm, help us live together in peace, and keep us even from harming ourselves. His commandments are for our good.” — Thank you, Pastor Dave, for this beautiful reminder.

    Love gives, indeed.

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