The Beatles said, “All you need is love.” I would agree. This however, begs the question: What is love?
Love has been called many things: blind, eternal, forever, patient, kind, you name it. As hard as we might try, love is an elusive word to define. I find it ironic that the very emotion that inspires songs, poems, literature, art and even war has never been fully described or agreed upon.
Is love a tangible thing? A state of being? Or is love a verb? An action? To some, it’s more one than the other.
If I were to take a side — noun or verb — I would side with the verb. Rational thinking has indeed explained many complicated things, but love seems to remain a mystery. This might be because it cannot be quantified and isn’t always rational.
Each person will have a different meaning for love. Some definitions will be technical, pulled from dictionaries and thesauruses. Some will look to their personal experiences and feelings to adequately define it.
Setting the technicalities aside, most of us yearn to know, understand and feel love. If we look outside ourselves for love, I would make a case that love is something that must be given freely.
Because there are so many different ways we explain love, there are many ways to give love. For simplicity, I would like to share something that has helped me understand, if only a little, the subject of giving love. Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages,” describes five basic languages of love: words of affirmation, quality time, giving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.
Like any system, this by no means comprehensively explains love. All I can say is that it might help the process of understanding. Most of these are pretty self-explanatory.
Words of affirmation are simple expressions of gratitude like, “I’m grateful to have you because … ” or “Thank you for … ”
Quality time is what it sounds like: spending time one-on-one with another person and listening to what they are saying. Gift giving involves giving presents or other tangible expressions of love. Acts of service involve helping another person with tasks like running errands, doing dishes or raking the yard.
Some people might communicate differently through these languages.
While these “languages” are usually associated with dating, engaged or married couples, applying these to other relationships like family members and friends also yields interesting results.
A provocative question I suggested a good friend ask his fiancée was, “What have I done that made you feel the most love?” I suggest the same to you. I do not guarantee an engagement, but you just might be surprised by the answer.
Chris Brotherton is a senior in family studies and human services. Please send comments to email@example.com.