Exactly one Man was able to love perfectly. The rest of us fall short.
I remember the first time I thought I experienced love. I couldn’t tell you her name, or really anything about her. All I knew, is that she was the most beautiful girl I had ever met in my life. It turns out that she knew her shapes too, so preschool was going to be great that year…
Obviously, that experience didn’t last long, and there are about a bajillion others just like it that I’m sure most of us can recall.
The point is that love is complicated. It’s more than any of us can show, or even understand, most of the time.
Because all of us are imperfect, we will make mistakes when we try to love those around us. That doesn’t mean we are failures, it just means we have more to work on.
Life. The big test. It just doesn’t end, does it?
The good news is that our ability to change and progress is actually a huge blessing.
The even better news is that the One who does love perfectly has already provided us a way to learn to love like Him. His Way, or better said His Gospel, enables us to change and better ourselves.
As we all should know, the beginning of this change is recognizing where we do go wrong.
So, here are 3 ways that a lot of us “go wrong” when we try to show our love to others:
1. “I love you, so you have to love me”
In any kind of relationship, love should never demand anything from anyone.
Most people don’t realize how easy this attitude is to adapt. No one would ever intentionally say this, or feel this way… but then again, most aren’t perfect.
This mistake often comes in the intentions and expectations of us showing our love. Even when we truly feel drawn to someone, we often expect something in return.
When a teacher puts a lot of effort into a Sunday School lesson because he/she loves their students, they often expect positive feedback and participation. When a young man first says the words “I love you” to a young woman, they hope those feelings are reciprocated. Even when we do what we can to keep the commandments and to love God, we hope that we will feel His love and His presence in our lives.
But what if we don’t get what is expected?
Perfect love exists REGARDLESS of the outcome.
When Christ was on the cross, it didn’t matter that most of the Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders would never speak positively of Him. When He suffered in Gethsamane, it was not important that He was about to be betrayed by one whom He considered a close friend.
He loves anyway. Without expectations or specific intentions.
2. “I love you, because of what you do”
Love shouldn’t be solely attached to accomplishments or specific characteristics.
Imagine reading the scripture where Christ tells us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself . . . as long as they are accomplished in their career, know how to do really cool things, are incredibly smart and are always kind to you.”
Wouldn’t we be continuously disappointed if love was only attached to what a person does?
A perfect love will help us look past accomplishments and see a person as they really are: a child of God who has the same potential as you and I.
That’s why a list of what you are looking for in a future spouse is a good starting point, but not a good ending point. That’s why, often, matters can be resolved that don’t end in a “He wasn’t the man I thought he was.”
When we learn to truly love a person beyond their capabilties and qualities, our love is carried through hard times, trials and mistakes.
It’s this same kind of love that carried our Savior through the suffering and death on the cross and in Gethsemane. It’s the same kind of love that keeps His hand extended and promises assured.
3. “I feel like I love you, so I’ll say I love you”
Perfect love goes way beyond a feeling we get in our hearts.
This is probably where the world and members of the Church differ the most in how they view “love.”
Sing along with me if you can:
“I can’t fight this feeling any more. I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for. It’s time to bring this ship into the shore…”
Yes. REO Speedwagon nailed love didn’t they? Just a feeling we have to pursue.
“I can’t stop this feeling, deep inside of me…. I-I-I-I-I, I’m hooked on a feeling, I’m hight on believing….”
Thank goodness Chris Pratt and the “Guardians” helped us remember what love felt like in 1974.
Or one of our renewed Disney favorites (thank you Beyoncé)…
“Can you feel the love tonight, the peace the evening brings, the world for once in perfect harmony…”
Timon and Pumba were the only ones not “feeling” this love that night. Afterall, they were about to lose a friend.
All of those are timeless classics. They paint such a beautiful picture, don’t they?
Compare those to what the scriptures tell us about love.
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (Moroni 7:45).
That’s a lot of requirements for love. Can’t we just stick to feeling it?
“And above all things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Colossians 3:14).
Wow. Perfectness? That’s a touch dramatic. It seems like too much effort.
Yes. We’re even taught to love our enemies. Most of the time I am definitely not feeling that. It seems Lion King’s version is a little easier…
When we are drawn to someone, whether romantically, as a friend or in any other way, it’s easy to relate these feelings to love. But when we say “I love you,” we should always remember that we are actually saying much more than “Hey, I’m feeling really good about you right now.”
We will find in our lives that a simple feeling is almost always not enough to get us through the hardest parts of relationships. To truly love is to decide to put another person in front of ourselves, and to treat them the best that we possibly can.
The “feeling” of love comes and goes; the choice to love is everlasting.
The Perfect Love
As we strive to learn to develop the “perfect love” in our relationships, we should always remember the One that set the example.
The Savior loves us, even when we fail to love Him.
The Savior loves us regardless of what we accomplish.
The Savior’s love goes beyond a feeling He had. He willingly suffered and gave His life, so that we could have a chance time and time again to repent and come back to Him.
Although none of us will be perfect in this life, as we strive to follow the Savior, we will be able to develop love that comes without specific conditions or requirements for others.
We will learn to love as He does.