Characteristics of Love

“Love does not demand its own way.”  I Corinthians 13:5

In the classic description of love:  I Corinthians 13, from verse 5, comes this rather stinging rebuke of our modern culture.  Everything from the popular song “I Did It My Way”  to the Burger King ad “Have It Your Way”, tells us that we are entitled to have things the way we want them–always, all the time, and we should expect that.  Anything less than our own way is not to be acceptable.  Something is wrong–with the government, the company, the product, the service–whatever it is, something that doesn’t go our way is wrong.  And this cultural message is everywhere, and not even very subtle.

Anyone who has been married knows it isn’t always possible for two people to each have things their own way and remain together.  Perhaps this is the number one reason why there is so much divorce and so many relationship breakups.  If one party is offered an attractive position in another state and the other party doesn’t want to leave–do they break up so each can have their own way?  What about lots of things, like which house to live in, which cars to drive, what kind of decor, landscaping, food, friends, entertainment, pastimes, and so on, on and on.  If each is always demanding their own way, unwilling to compromise, what happens?

Love would value the relationship above the other desires.  Loving someone means seeking the happiness of another–shall I dare say it?  –seeking the happiness of another above one’s own desires, preferences, and convenience.   When courting one usually does that, as one wants to win the prize of the other’s permanent commitment.  After the commitment is made, each tends to revert back to the old preferences, claiming they want it their way.  People go back to thinking of “Me” rather than “Us”.

Love thinks “Us” first, then “You” and lastly “Me”.  Thinking “us” leads to compromises where both parties win, not 100% of what they want in every case, but a lot of it.  If each gets a large part of their needs and desires met, they theoretically  can be happy that “we” (the relationship) is happy.  Secondly, thinking “you” means sometimes giving up something or sacrificing something for the other, because the other, and the relationship is so valuable.  It is worth it to give up lesser things for the well being and happiness of the other.  One thinks of spouses who care for their ill partner, or put the partner through school.  In each case one carries the far heavier burden, but does it for the other and for the relationship.

The definition of love is meeting the needs of another, and considering their needs as important as one’s own.  Love in any situation, love of spouse, family, children, or neighbor is totally unselfish.  It considers the legitimate needs of another as equally important to one’s own needs.  It is truly “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  And in those situations where the needs of another take precedence over one’s own needs, it’s helpful to remember another teaching of Jesus:  “Whatever you have done for one of these the least of my brethren, you have done for me.”

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