What Is Love?

Max has consistently shown me love and taught me what love is. I recognize that I write this at the risk of overdoing it on this theme (even the last post was on love), but I continually find new and inspiring realizations from this very loving companion.

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To be fair, Max is only one in a large group of family and friends who have helped me continually discover and rediscover what love is, but through his pure and simple relationship with me, I see both my mistakes and the truth of love very clearly. And even when I thought I was describing and showing love pretty well, Max has taught me that there are some important things to sort out. 

This is what I have learned:

Love does not seek to hold power over another.

Love does not possess another.

Love does not seek to change the other.

Love does not insist on certain patterns or markers in life.

Love does not keep accounts.

Some of these are more obvious than others – love is in no way manipulative. But some of these things are actually important in my life and for Max – things like accountability and transformation (the whole point of this blog is the many ways I have been transformed through what I have learned in relationship with Max).

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Accountability to certain ideals can be a good, helpful thing in certain relationships. But Max has undoubtedly helped me realize that such accountability is not love. Real accountability is an act of care, if it is truly established to help people attain the values or goals they set in their lives (sadly, accountability is often twisted to describe punitive consequences when someone does not uphold another person’s values…which is not a helpful form of accountability, and definitely not a form of love).

I have often been tempted to say that my desire to keep someone accountable or to express power over others is love. Even in my relationship with Max, I have been tempted to think that my stern insistence on obedience is a form of love. It is not. It is important and keeps him safe, but it is not love.

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Here’s why – Max has taught me on the positive side that:

Love is merciful.

Love is self-giving.

Love is forgiving.

Love is patient.

Love is affirming and valuing of the other.

I don’t like thinking that I am limiting love, and am sure that there are plenty more descriptors, but Max has taught me that love is a distinct force of good in this world recognized in those ways. He has taught me that too often I use the word love to describe acts that are not merciful, self-giving, forgiving, patient, and affirming, even if those acts are helpful to incorporate into my life.

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My relationship with Max would be incomplete without a certain sense of accountability (extended both ways) and assertiveness and learning from one another. But my relationship with Max is fundamentally distorted if I think any of that is love.

So, thank you Max for loving me and teaching me what love really is and is not. Thank you for helping me be a more loving presence in your life and in the lives of many others I meet.

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