If you thought of anything but the Haddaway song, kudos.
Anyway, there are many different kinds of love and many different expressions of it, ranging from the euphemism for “fuck” to more than moderate appreciation of something to concern for another object’s welfare to intimacy, caring about something else more than yourself. The last two are the only really valid ones, and true love, in my opinion, is the last definition: caring about something else more than yourself.
I believe mainly in two forms of motivation, selfishness and selflessness. One seeks to gratify the individual, the other to gratify something external. Some people may argue that all actions are done out of some form of self-gratification, and I say that’s bollocks and makes the whole discussion worthless. Freud put it in terms of id and super ego, and there’s more to it, but just accept it as selfishness and selflessness for the sake of this.
Love is selflessness, doing something for another while ignoring yourself, or even at your own expense. But, it isn’t just actions.
My mother is dying, say, and I go to live with her to take care of her until she dies. Is this selfless and loving?
It may very well be, but not necessarily. If I am suffering but thankful that my mother gets to live a longer, happier life, then yes, I am being loving. If, however, I am doing it out of a sense of duty, my actions may still be admirable, but they aren’t loving. They are a grudging requirement, and this isn’t love at all.
Love isn’t about actions at all, I would go so far to say. “We always hurt the ones we love,” after all. And we can help people for motivation much less than pure.
If I take a little girl home to her parents so she doesn’t have to wait alone somewhere because I am concerned for her welfare, this is loving. It may be that the parents are frightened and cannot find her or I am accused of something perverse, but what I did was still loving.
Flip it a bit. Say I am a pedophile, through and through. Say I take a little girl home so I can find out where she lives. Say the parents are thankful and I never get the opportunity to or just decide not to act on my motivations. Was the act itself still loving? Not in the least, except as the euphemistic definition given above.
What is love? Patient, kind, not envious, or resentful. Doesn’t brag, isn’t proud, but is restrained and rejoices in truth and morality. These things are love, and it never fails. But it has to be true, or there’s no point. It has to be genuinely felt, not acted out.
I’ll paraphrase and adapt some more biblical language. Love without works is dead, but works without love are empty.
What is love? The greatest of things, but I say harder to come by and feel truly as human beings than realize or would like to admit.