What is love?

(U.S. Air Force illustration/Airman 1st Class Eboni Knox)

(U.S. Air Force illustration/Airman 1st Class Eboni Knox)

The group Haddaway once asked the question in a song, "What is Love?" Foreigner, in one of their hits said, "I Want to Know What Love is." Yet, when you listen to an old Beatles hit, they said, "All You Need is Love." If all one needs is love shouldn't we ask, "What is Love", and seek to gain a clear understanding of this complicated word before we use it to identify how we feel about someone?

Feb. 14, the western world celebrates love, the powerful emotion that affects us all, but do we really know what love is? When asked to define love, people around base responded with varying ideas. Some said, "Love is a feeling." Others responded, "Love is having someone who cares for you even during the dark days." One person commented, "Love is unconditional." A cartoon depicted love as two people sharing the same dream.

Even Noah Webster's definition of love has a different slant. The dictionary states love as being, "a strong affection for or an attachment to another person based on regard or shared experiences or interest." Let's spend a few moments reflecting on some of the answers people gave when asked, "What is love?"

Love is not the "I just don't feel I love him or her anymore" emotion that is typically described in a struggling relationship. This type of love is superficial and is tied to physical attraction. What happens to those feelings of love as the years take their toll and situations change? Should we stop loving our spouses because they have lost their hair or put on weight? Should we stop loving our spouses because they are too busy with work and are deployed several times in an assignment? Love based on superficial feelings and attraction is an immature attitude, a reaction to a short-lived passion. True love is characterized by total devotion and commitment to someone, no matter what.

"Love is often sharing the same dream." This is a great definition because it implies that two people are "on the same page" and can encourage each other. The same could be said about Webster's definition, which also has some key components of love, "strong affection based on shared experiences and interest." However, what occurs when those dreams or interests change? Does the love change? Should we move onto another person with similar dreams and interests?

"Love is unconditional," was the definition given by a few people when asked, "What is love?" When people love each other unconditionally, their love is patient and kind even when the other person is not. A person who loves unconditionally does not get angry easily, even when returning from a deployment to find a dent in the car and a child struggling in school. People who love unconditionally are willing to admit when they are wrong. They are not afraid to be transparent with the one they love. Families who love unconditionally are polite, treating each other with respect. They seek to build each other up rather than cut each other down. Unconditional love keeps no record of wrongs, but seeks to forgive and to move forward to strengthen the relationship. Unconditional love perseveres even when difficult times occur. It doesn't give up on a marriage or a child. True unconditional love never fails.

So what is love? Combine all these definitions and you still would not be close to fully and perfectly describing this incredible emotion which moves us all, which gives us pleasure both in the giving and receiving; this emotion gives us purpose, direction and security.

On Valentine's Day, many will give the one they love chocolates or maybe flowers as expressions of love. However, by the end of the month those flowers will be dead and the chocolates will be long gone. So, why not invest in something that lasts forever--your relationships with those you love the most, such as your spouse and children.

The RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall chapels want to help you invest if your families. We invite you to attend our Family God Retreat Mar. 26-28, at the Hayes Christian Retreat Center. This retreat will have activities and workshops designed to develop stronger family ties for couples, parents, teenagers and children, ages one to 10 years old.

For more information, call Chaplain (Capt.) Richard Holmes at 226-3711 or Chaplain (Capt.) Martin Adamson at 238-2822.