‘I heart you’ does not necessarily mean love
Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,
The use of a big, red heart in slogans is a really big deal these days, isn’t it? “I heart you,” “I heart Grandma,” “I heart Hillsboro,” etc. They are on so many shirts, mugs, television, and likely even text messages. I think I’ve seen some “heart” slogans in your home. Sometimes, it makes me want to lose heart – the big, red one I mean.
This popular symbol of “love” in our culture is so much less than what the writer of St. Francis’ Prayer of Peace meant when he said: “O Master, grant that I may seek not so much to be loved as to love.”
Whether the big red heart is on a Valentine or some T-shirt, it usually means “I really like you, or ice cream, or Hillsboro, or whatever.” But love?
Kids, you know as well I do that the word “love” is over-used. And that cheapens the word. It has less value when it is used to describe how we feel about almost every person or everything. When we mean “like,” let’s use that word. It is a good word. It says we value a person or thing. And that’s good.
But “like” and “love” do not mean the same thing. They are related words, kinda like all the cousins that Andy played with in Mexico this summer. He certainly could like his cousins, and even like some cousins more than others. But loving someone is caring at a deeper level.
To like another person can also be a temporary feeling, can’t it? How many different friends have you had for a short time, and then your friendship gets damaged by someone’s hurt feelings? Suddenly you are friends no more. That isn’t the way with love. Can you guess why?
It’s because while “like” is based on feelings, “love” is based on your decision to care deeply about another person, even when your feelings are hurt. We can hurt the feelings of people we love – sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. But if that person loves you, “forgiveness” begins to play a big role in your relationship.
Sometimes we do such stupid things to people we love. So if they forgive us, it isn’t really because we “deserve” to be forgiven. It is simply because they love us.
This might be one of the most important things we learn about God from Jesus, kids. The New Testament is filled with stories and little reminders that because God loves us first, we know what love is like for us; and so we are able to love other persons.
In the Jesus stories, we see that Jesus was treated horribly by some people. But because he loved them, he didn’t have to like what they did to him (or other people). In fact, he could forgive them – all because he loved them. He wasn’t loved or liked by his enemies (or his friends who betrayed him), but that didn’t stop him from loving them.
That’s so often difficult for us to do. But with Jesus as our example, we stand a better chance of knowing such love can happen through us for other persons. I know, kids, that you will always need little reminders that you are loved. We all do! You have family and friends who will be glad to let you know you are loved.
But don’t let yourself stop at receiving love from us. Give that deep love to some who needs it, too.
Unconditional Love, Grampa
The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is the founder of Elder Advocates. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.