Home > Some Different Thoughts > Some Different Thoughts On Love: Functional Capacities of Different Types of Relationships

Some Different Thoughts On Love: Functional Capacities of Different Types of Relationships

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4

Beautiful isn’t it? So simple in theory, so difficult in practice. Impossible without Jesus and sometimes feels impossible with Him. But what a beautiful picture! How wonderful would our world be if we all let these words become our life. Actually though, if I was close to just one person that lived this out devotedly, I think it would make my world wonderful. Indeed, it seems that a single life living this out could permanently mark the lives of others with beauty. It also seems ridiculously hard. And it is. I’m not going to give much advice on how to actually love like this. I think it has something to do with this. But also an incessant depth of intimacy with Jesus that I have not known.

The actual living out of these verses doesn’t always look how I think it would. When I consider the life of Jesus Christ, I don’t immediately think of these verses. I think of Him as loving, but also many other things. Like angry, saucy, rebellious, sacrilegious, and a brilliant debater. But, I do believe Scripture and so believe that Jesus actually spent His entire life living out these words of Paul in Corinthians. Jesus is God and John tells us that God is Love. So, Jesus is love, and somehow, all of his anger, sass, harsh words, and undermining of authority is an act of love. Despite his love manifesting in sometimes unexpected ways, His life is still beautiful, and what life has marked more lives with enduring beauty than that of Jesus? My point is that sometimes perfect love looks different than what we immediately think of as perfect love.

One factor that influences how love looks is the nature of our relationship with someone. At the coffee shop, living out this sort of love might simply look like smiling and asking sincerely how the barista’s day is going. That might seem insignificant, but it might be the maximum amount of love that the relationship allows. Going beyond the boundaries of that relationship might actually be totally unloving. For instance, someone might try to really love the barista by getting to know them and ask them deep questions about their personal life, but it makes the individual feel unsafe and exposed and embarrassed in front of this person they hardly know. The nature of the relationship only allows a certain kind of love and other attempts at love, however well intentioned, are simply not love.

There’s also examples of situations in which doing things that normally look like acts of love are not in reality loving at all. Advice is a common example. People (like me!) are often so quick to give advice to people that don’t need advice, that aren’t loved by advice. What love looks like might just be to listen and to try to understand or to hug and be there. Advice might be really well intentioned and still make the other feel terrible. On the flip side, passive listening and understanding is sometimes totally useless. Sometimes people need to see something more clearly and they need someone to speak up and tell them where they are wrong, even fiercely debating them. To love them is to reveal to them, no matter how difficult or painful it might be, the things that are destroying them or keeping them from truly living life as beautiful as it is meant to be lived.

My life is actually what got me thinking about this concept* and has been full of misguided love that hasn’t been love at all. It’s quite pathetic. I’ve been interacting with an individual that I want to love really really well, I care about them deeply. But I haven’t love them well at all. Not at all. The problem is that in reality, I have a friendship with this person that is limited in the maximum amount of love I can express and how I can express that love; however, I’ve basically been playing house with this person, pretending like we have a relationship that has a depth that it definitely does not. I can’t love them truly because I’m trying to love in a way that I can’t. At one level of friendship, I really could (at least sometimes) love them with a constant trust, hope, perseverance, forgetting all wrongs, with complete patience, without envy, and without self. But in this pretend world I’m living in, I can’t. In trying to love at a level the relationship doesn’t have the capacity for, I end up hurting this person I want to care for. I end up hurting myself too by putting myself in a situation where I am not able to be truly loved or to feel any love because we’re both trying to love in a way that is beyond the functional capacity of the relationship we should have. And I end up doing many things with good intentions that I truly desire to be acts of love that are damaging and hurtful. I thought pretending would be okay and that somehow the relationship would become what we were pretending it was, and misguided love would suddenly be rectified.

After a long period of time, it hasn’t happened. I don’t recommend ever trying anything of the sort. Learn from the ways of a fool. Be careful in how you love.

*Which, I think might be helpfully explored more and expanded on to fit a lot of different situations. I haven’t thought much about the idea of certain relationship types containing a maximum amount of expressible love. Does the basic concept at least make sense? Shed light on anything in your life? Do you even agree with it?

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