“I love you.”
|Taken from a book called Loose Change by Jim Dollar|
I say it when I think it. I say it to my husband probably 20 times a day (he can attest). I say it to my mom when I leave her office at work. I say it for goodbye and I say it for hello. I say it for “good night”. I say it because I mean it. I say it because I am thinking it. I say it because I feel it. I say it because I want that to be the last thing you hear from my mouth when we are parted. I say it because I want to hear it. I say it because I need it. I say it because it is real.
Joel and I just learned that in Sanskrit there are 86 ways to say the word “love.”
Western culture has become so limited in our understanding and expression of love that we are depleting ourselves of experiencing it. This drain might actually be coming from our use of the word, our one, single word for love.
In Sanskrit, there is a “love” for friendship, for parents, for siblings, for animals, for a spouse, a boyfriend, a pastor, a teacher and the list goes on. There is a way to express love fully and appropriately to every one and thing that you do love. What freedom!
Perhaps, our one love is enough for you?
Joel and I discussed just how this word already changed in the context of our friendships since we have been married.
Joel noted that once we were married almost all of his dear female friends responded to his “I love you” with “Love ya!” Or if they didn’t add the “ya” on the end where “you” used to be, they would simply say “Love you guys.” This of course, was adding me into the picture.
On one hand, I am a product of this culture and I say “bravo!” to all those beautiful girl friends who respectfully add me into that statement of love. It is awesome that we have male and female friends who respect our marriage and love us both as one. In this system and rules of our culture, this is appropriate and right.
On the other hand, it is a shame that in our culture a married man might feel uncomfortable by telling a dear female friend that he loves her. Or she can feel fearful of saying it back in case it is taken the wrong way. In the same way, I have male friends who also give me the “love ya” or the “love you guys” just as Joel’s friends do. We both have noticed our opposite sex friends have cautiously moved away from just saying it outright, “I love you too.”
We are not complaining. At the end of the day and even in the moment of expression we know that we are both dearly loved. It is simply an observation. We have heard in theory and are incline to believe it to be true, that because our culture has reserved “I love you” for committed relationships of the romantic kind or parental kind, we have prevented our friendships from having an expression for “I love you” that is equally as strong.
Since we have taught our culture that the expression “I love you” is primarily a romantic statement, we have created generations of friendships ruined by the phrase. Since love is a romantic word, then any feelings of love derived in a friendship are often misinterpreted. One person or the other or both, feeling that expression of love, could then be led to think that this relationship is indeed a romantic one when probably it was not.
It seems a shame that we set ourselves up for limiting our understanding of love as a romantic experience. Friends who say “I love you” to married friend don’t want to be a home-wrecker or ever misinterpreted by expressing the phrase, so they remain cautious. Friends who experience love toward a friend might find themselves suddenly thinking they are “in love” or that this relationship has become romantic. Sadly that mistake (but understandable thinking) can result in an experience of actually becoming a home-wrecker or being rejected by a friend who does not return those romantic feelings. Then a friendship or a marriage might end.
We haven’t set ourselves up for the fullness of love with our language. I must return to the power of the Word. Words create life because they create action which turns into behavior and then choices…and so on. They really do. Perhaps we should make up our own expressions to describe the abundance that love can offer to human beings in all sorts of relationships. If you can experience the depth of friend-love without considering this relationship has turned romantic, then imagine how you might grow.
How would we begin? What words could we invent to describe the fullness of love in a variety of settings?
I will give it a shot…
Romantic relationship- “knowgodsgoodness”
Ended relationship- "alwayspart"
Ended relationship- "alwayspart"
Expressing love for a past experience “Learnedgrowth”
Expressing love out of gratitude “Bigfulheart”
Expressing love for a place “goldenland”
Expressing love for God “Gloryfull!”
I’ve done it myself; looked at a dear friend of the opposite sex and said “I love ya.” Written an email and wanted to write “I love you so” and all that I wrote was “Thanks, Claire.”
I think we all want love to be bigger than our understanding or definition of it. If we do, then we need to live into that. We need to experience friendships as a different way to love that is just as full and rich without being romantic. We need to be blessed by the phrase “I love you” and not threatened, fearful or inauthentic. Perhaps someday, as our language and cultural maturity in relationships evolve, we might get to a place where there are multiple understandings and expressions of love. In this system I abide in, I will still say it loudly and clearly, “Friends, I love you. Joel, I love you. Mom, I love you. God, I love you.”