Anyone who is on Twitter, or any stream of social media really, is constantly bombarded with the retweets and reposts of opinions about love. Not even just social media, but media in general repeatedly make their views on love known in 140 characters or less. With so many viewpoints and backgrounds, it’s hard not to take notice of the views that resonate most in our lives.
We have all done it. Scrolled down our feed and saw that one tweet that encompassed entirely how we felt at the moment so deeply that we had no choice but to tap the retweet button. Or, screen shot it and send it to the friend who knows exactly what we’re going through. Or, even the flip side of that we retweet something that conveys how we should feel even when we don’t, or retweet the surface level post having nothing to do with how we feel but conveniently displays our “maturity” in God. With this constant access to a world that is consistently churning out seemingly wise words on matters of the heart and life it gets difficult not to shape our opinions based on what we see everyday. Even with this tidal wave of clever word play on what people think love should be, or look like, there is one truth.
The one inevitable, inerrant truth about love that is ancient, biblical, and has stood the test of time over and over again is that it is the embodiment of unselfishness. No Christian, atheist, or philosopher could ever prove that the heart of true love is self-serving. Not even in just the romantic sense, but in every relationship that tries to grow and nurture love there has to be an attitude of selflessness. There is nothing more genuine human beings could ever do for one another than to not only say, but mean the words “I love you more than I love myself”. It seems like a novelty ideal reserved for fictional stories about star-crossed lovers. And to that extent almost seems easy to practice. Just think of yourself less. Do more for them than you do for yourself. Give a little more than you would for other people. Spend more time with them than you do with your friends. All of these are along the lines of selflessness, but barely merit the same level of giving that love requires.
It all comes down to one simple question, would you give up everything? The standard of love to most people is about how long can you hold on. How much you can fight to keep love alive. How much you can bend without ever breaking. And, for some, that may be necessary but it isn’t always the answer. Sometimes loving someone means letting go. I don’t mean that cliché idea that if you love someone, you let him or her go and if it’s meant to be, they’ll come back. I mean can you really let them go and move forward without agenda or any hope whatsoever that they will ever return?
I’m only 25 and I have ever only really loved one person my whole life. I don’t know everything about love; I am only a smart as experience has made me. And, one thing experience has shown me in the past year, and even more recently in the past two weeks is that in some cases, loving someone does in fact mean letting him or her go to lead a life without you, and that sometimes means forever. It means biting your tongue about how you feel, and binding your hands when all you want to do is fight.
It’s not romantic. It’s not even heroic. In the movies, it’s painted as a picture of nobility, but in reality, it’s just painful. For lack of a better term it just plain old sucks. It sucks because we have clothed the term “I love you” with a sense of entitlement. The minute we say it we expect it to be said back. The moment we feel it we expect it to not only be reciprocated but also multiplied in depth. But, love is selfless remember. The truth about love is that it doesn’t need to be returned to be considered love. I’m not an expert at letting go, it’s something I have to practice every day and some days not successfully. But my attempts, whether noble or painful, only exist for one purpose and that is to love the person whom I’ve said these words to better.
I don’t know what a selfless love for your specific relationships looks like. I can only know what is required of me. What I do know is that love requires more of us than we are ready to give in the moment, but it also provides the strength to do so assuming it comes from it original source, God. Holding on or letting go, loving or losing, the one thing to remember is that it’s not about you. Love isn’t a loan to which we should expect gain back, it’s nonreturnable.