Wednesday, August 18, 2010
A Choice and an Emotion
Over the years, I have heard much discussion as to whether love is an emotion or a choice. Many of the arguments for and against both sides are valid points. I happen to agree with both sides. Love is both an emotion AND a choice.
The word “love” is a concept that is so enormous that, like God, it can’t be limited to what it is, and what it can do. We are called to love—at all times, and in all circumstances.
When man and woman are joined in holy matrimony, they make promises to love each other for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. These vows are a great example of what it means to love—and why it is a choice. In any relationship, no matter how fleeting, to choose to love that person where they are, is the epitome of love.
After seeing a commercial for a small child starving in Africa, a person donates one hundred dollars to a world hunger charity, in spite of the envelopes on the table marked “FINAL NOTICE”. That small contribution to better the world is another powerful example of love—and why it is an emotion. Like other emotions, it can fill us with such passion and wields a power that is hard to control.
A mother and father spend their nights awake, praying for their wayward child. They live in constant fear during the late nights, and shake their heads in pain and confusion when they get a call from the police department to pick up their child for possession of an illegal substance. Still, they pray…and love. And even when everything comes to a head, and they have to put their foot down to make the child see…there is a thick layer of love around it all. These situations are the best examples of what makes love a choice…and an emotion.
Sometimes, we want for love to be one or the other. To make it bend to our needs, to fit it in that proverbial box. But we can’t do that. We can’t take the emotion out of love, or it lacks passion and purpose. Neither can we take out the choice, because…let’s face it, love is never easy. And in a world where everything is so temporary, and we are given to our desire to runaway when times are tough—the ability to say, “I am going to love…” takes resolution and a strong will.
A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Cathy Bryant, author of Texas Roads. In her novel, the heroine has a rocky relationship with her mother that goes from strained to all out war over the course of the story. In the end, with no attempt to make ammends on her mother's part, the heroine forgives her and they work out their differences. I had to think long and hard about whether or not that felt realistic to me. By society’s standards, this woman would have every right to despise her mother, possibly cut her out of her life for good. No one would blame her, they would probably think she’s better off.
It took awhile for me to realize the bigger picture. Love is both a choice and an emotion. The emotional side told the heroine that this is her mother—the woman who raised her and gave her everything she thought her daughter needed. She may not have done everything right, but her mother loved her in her own way. It also gave the heroine permission to hurt, to feel the pain of her mother’s betrayal.
The choice to love her mother would have been much harder. Her mother was cruel and catty, a very disagreeable character. But she chose to love her all the same. The heroine chose to be the bigger person and take the first step…a step that would lead to forgiveness and healing.
While this relationship is not the overall plot of the story, it was definitely a strong subplot that is a wonderful demonstration of love.
As we walk through life, we run into all sorts of people. Some are easy to love, some are not. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:39) God calls us to love anyway. Why? Because nothing is more powerful than love.