[love: a choice or a feeling?]

[love: a choice or a feeling?]

Now I know–and I have taught over and over–that “love” is not a feeling, but a commitment. Well pardon my Lenten blubbering here, but sometimes the feeling of love can be pretty intoxicating and even necessary.

David S. Hayes
(Check the entire blog post here)

A friend of mine wrote those words and as I read ‘em I thought of all the discussions I’ve had and all I’ve heard about this.

Like I mentioned in my comment to that blog post, I think we have made such an emphasis on love being a choice, a commitment, that it lost half of its value. Why half? Because Love is both a choice and a feeling. We cannot commit without feeling anything, and we cannot feel anything serious without choosing to feel.

I sometimes debate with myself, and as I was writing this sentence above, a part of me wondered “But, why sometimes you just don’t feel anything, yet you know you are supposed to love that person.”

I admit that is something I struggle with. When I remind myself that God commanded (not asked or said it would be a great plus, but commanded) me to love others, I start looking for ways how I can be civil without really loving. When you don’t even want to feel anything for that person because you’d rather have as little to do with them as possible, it is exactly when we truly start learning how to love people.

First, you need a choice. You need to choose to love that person no matter what happens. Sometimes it comes quite naturally when the one you need to love is a great friend. More often, however, it feels as if you are walking headfirst into a wall. You try and… it just does not work. You get hurt, get over it, get back on track… and the wall is there again, looming gloomily.

However, that’s when the feeling comes. For me, the reason for feeling love for other people is that I believe that in every single person there’s a piece of God’s image. Sometimes it’s so well hidden that you forget it was supposed to be there, but it is there. And if I love God, well, His image is a part of Him.

A choice and a feeling.

You need both oars to get the boat of Love going. Without choice, the feeling might come but more likely it will never even bother. Without feeling, Love would turn into a chore instead of the most amazing experience a person can have.

Jesus made a choice to come down to us. He made that choice based on the feeling He had. So I guess the order of feeling / choice is not strict, either.

What do you think about this issue of love being a choice / commitment or feeling? Does choice always come first or it’s the feeling? Can one really love without choosing to?

  • Interesting thought here, Zee, we believe that His love for us comes first. And so I'll compound the question: Does he first feel love for us, or choose it?

    • hmm, i guess it is sort of like that famous question about the chicken and the egg.

      i have read a quote that makes sense in this situation: "love is a chosen feeling" 🙂

      God made a choice to create us to love (feel love toward) us, but then He *IS* Love therefore we cannot really say that He has not felt love toward the uncreated prior to creation…

      confused i am.

  • Zee: can I plead the 5th (or whatever number it is)? I seriously wonder if you can even answer that question without it breaking down somewhere. I can choose to love someone but feelings do come along with it. A wife/husband who chooses to love their wayward mate still has feelings wrapped up in it. The parent who loves their prodigal or child who loves his/her alcoholic parent still has feelings. Hmmmm I'm not helping at all am I? Maybe I better stop before I muddy the waters even more. 🙂

    • yeah, it's the fifth amendment…

      the point was not in actually coming up with a definite answer… i realize that some questions are like a catch-22 (kind of like that question about the almighty God and creating a rock He cannot lift)…

      my main point was that we cannot put too much emphasis on love being a choice and deny the fact that love is also a feeling.

  • I think it is a delicate balance between the two.

    Good thoughts!

  • I'm just reading through this thread, and a realization is hitting me. The book I recently read, The Mountain of Silence, is written from an Eastern Orthodox vantage point. The claim there is that western Christianity has gone the way of scholasticism and the enlightenment. They say the west has adopted a two sided way of seeing truth: First, we believe in what our senses tell us (science), and second, we believe in what our mind can explain (philosophy). Our discussion here, like good western Christians, is very philosophical in nature. Yet we are philosophizing about the third way, the one which the Eastern church claims to have held to. (And I believe and agree that they have done a much better job at it.) The third way is a mixture of spiritual/contemplative/metaphysical vision. We see the world through what we can reason or prove. They seek to keep a third angle open–the mystical path. I think that is where LOVE comes in. It is hard to reason our way to an answer, and might be easier for a mystic to comment here. Hey Zena, do you have any practicing Orthodox friends who might chime in here? (Not to put you on the spot, but you live in a much more Orthodox place. 🙂

    • Yeah, i do live in a much more Orthodox place, but not a lot of people over here read my blog… (or comment, for that matter)…

      I agree that Love cannot be explained fully, unless you explain it as a mystical "something"… But then, like i mentioned in one of the comments to your blog posts, my worldview has been influenced by Eastern Orthodox thinking as much as by Western thinking, and i can't really draw the boundaries *shrug*

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  • I love this. Heh… Not sure if I chose to do so or felt it first… I digress.

    I believe that for us humans sometimes choice comes first and other times it is feelings. Sometimes it might even be simultaneous.

    I also believe that I am only able to truly love because God first loved me.

  • I'm with Bill here…Kinda torn…

  • Linda M

    Hi Zee,
    I like your website. I looked through parts of it just now. You are a very talented young woman. You've answered my question on whether you are in America . You are in Ukraine? in Asia?
    it's crazy that people live in different countries and some countries are easier to live in than others. I imagine that the Ukraine can be a hard place to live in at times. I like the scriptures you use to encourage yourself. All I can say is that God knows where you are and what you need. I will pray also. Canada is a good country but we're 'not all that' either. Life can be hard in its way in Canada too. Over the last 10 years there are more and more people just trying to pay their bills and provide a reasonable standard of living for their families. Every year it gets harder. Every year there are more homeless people in our cities. We do have good social supports here for people but that might be changing in the future.

    • Yep, I live in good ol' Ukraine, in the capital – Kyiv 🙂

      Ukraine is a great country (btw, just a little correction – since '91 we don't have the "the" before Ukraine – used to have it back when we were a part of the USSR, but not anymore)… My (and only mine) main concern is that there is no real leader who would take all the vast resources available and put them to decent use. Right now, Ukraine's being milked… But then, i guess that's the problem with all countries these days…

      Glad you like the blog – feel free to wander around and leave comments – i love all kind of feedback 😀

  • Linda M

    HI Zee
    I think God's kind of love is given to us. Can we really love like Him as mortal fallen humans? I think God's kind of love is a process in the believer's life. It takes some time to possess that kind of love. but certainly that's where we are to get to in Christ. I believe that the Holy Spirit does the work. We are to keep pressing in for more and more of God. Prayer, scripture reading, practicing the word of God in our life with a truly committed heart. I believe these kinds of steps will get us there. It puts us in a place where the Spirit of God can do his work in us. We get changed. These are some of my thinkings on the topic of 'loving one another, loving our enemies, etc'
    God Bless you, talk to you again.

    • thanks for sharing the thoughts! 🙂

      it is inspiring that one day we will finally learn to love as he does (well, at least as close as we can get to experiencing that…)… his love is the most amazing (and awesome, in the full sense of that word) things…

  • Great stuff. I like this quote from Linda M.: "Prayer, scripture reading, practicing the word of God in our life with a truly committed heart. I believe these kinds of steps will get us there. It puts us in a place where the Spirit of God can do his work in us. We get changed."

    It is fascinating that works do not earn grace, yet our sincere efforts place us in a position to receive grace. This too I'm learning in my studies of E. Orthodoxy. Heavy emphasis on disciplines and humility!

    Great discussion here.

    • thanks for inspiring this post, Dave 🙂 I think this is by far my most active post, comments wise… and i love it.

      yep, i'm learning lately that it's all about finding the golden middle, that point of balance… woke up today with a phrase stuck in my brain after some dream i had… "Jesus is the Golden Middle"… i don't think i dreamed about anything like that, but that was the first thought i had when i opened my eyes. it was kind of fun… maybe a post about that will be written sometime later…

  • I am weighing in late on this topic but it is a good one.

    God is multi-dimensional even when the bible says that He IS love. That does not mean He quits being Holy, Just, Merciful, Wrathful, All-Knowing, All-Powerful… it just means that we are learning one other aspect by which we can relate to Him. And, possibly, that Love is one of the qualities that transcends many of His other attributes as in He is Loving even in His Discipline. He is Loving through His mercy. He is Loving in His Judgment.

    Now, if God is multi-dimensional and He created us in His image, can we make a correlating statement that we are also multi-dimensional and that love needs to be observed based on those many facets like emotions, will, action, and intent?

    A study of the Hebrew word Hesed may also help in this matter:

    Psalms 23:6 – Surely Goodness and __________ (let's fill in the blank for multiple translations)

    KJV = Mercy
    NIV = Love
    NASB = Lovingkindness

    All of those are translated from the word Hesed. We struggle with finding a one word translation for that Hebrew concept.

    Maybe our English word, Love, has that same definition problem as well. When Christ said that greater love could not be found than that of a person laying down their life for another, I think He was portraying both a simple AND a complex act of love. We immediately understand the sacrifice that was made and hold that in high esteem.

    But what happens when we begin to question the circumstances of that action? Who was saved? Who died? Why did they choose to die for the other person? How did the person feel about being saved? Should the person have sacrificed themselves for the other?

    The answers to those questions will present a more complex view of what occurred.

    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever should believeth on Him would not perish but have everlasting life.

    That is a familiar verse. We have all seen it lifted on posters in sports stadiums. There is a simple truth of loving sacrifice presented in that one sentence. But the complete truth of the love presented takes a life time of devotion.. and even then we see through a glass darkly.

    I hope this confused the topic even more 🙂
    My recent post Cracks in the Church

    • finally got some time to read through the entire comment (been trying to at work, but couldn't focus)…

      ah, hesed… makes me think of the time when i was learning Hebrew… if only you've seen the face expression of our teacher when he said that word… every time it came out so softly and tenderly…

      There is a simple truth of loving sacrifice presented in that one sentence. But the complete truth of the love presented takes a life time of devotion.. and even then we see through a glass darkly. – love this… i can't even start to comprehend the full meaning of that verse…

      thanks, Tony!

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