An Open Apology to Love

Kassidi McKayla Kaminski is a sophomore studying Psychology in the Liberal Arts Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin. After graduation she hopes to attend law school and is currently a member of Delta Gamma and a Young Life leader at Reagan High School.

True love doesn’t exist anymore. Love is such an important word because of its transforming power, but the growing age of social media and shorthand language has devalued love’s meaning. We use careless phrases like “I love this pic of you” or “I seriously love him” or –  my least favorite – “ily” to sneak in the word without acknowledging its true power. Love itself should stand alone. It doesn’t need clarifiers or modifiers because the gift it has for people should remain sacrificial and unconditional -– period.

Kassidi and Kolton: Love sometimes looks like a chokehold but is really just aggressive sisterly love.

What is love supposed to look like?  What is it meant to do? Love insists that our actions, speech and thoughts should show others that they are valued and cherished – that they are worthy of being loved. It is an intentional action with moral purpose, not an exaggeration to describe the excitement you feel over an Instagram post.

Love retains a powerful meaning in a religious lens especially. To Christians, God Himself is the definition of love. 1 John 4:8 reads that, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” It seems then that, in this lens, in order for any one of us to show complete love to a person, we must first understand God as the basis of love. 1 Corinthians 13, famously known as the Love Chapter, shatters our obliviousness to the implications of our rhetoric and explicitly says everything that love is – patient, kind, rejoicing in truth and enduring and hoping of all things – and is not – envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, self-seeking, easily-angered and rejoicing in wrongdoings. I find it impossible to cram all of these defining aspects into a three-character text like “ily.”

Annie May and Kassidi: Love looks like the unconditional attachment between a girl and her dog.

As children the majority of us grew up on moral principles that – apart from religious influence – taught us to love everyone, despite differences in categorical dividers such as gender, race, ethnicity or religion. Music insisted that “all we need is love,” and countless influential leaders and authors have emphasized love’s power over time. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend.”  If love truly does have such a power to transcend divisive disagreements, how can it be fully represented in a quick phrase to describe something that you don’t really love, but just somewhat like?

Author Robert A. Heinlein wrote, “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” Love is sacrificial. It prioritizes another’s well-being over your own to the point that your soul quakes uneasily if their happiness is disrupted. It cannot be equated to a double-tap on an Instagram picture or a string of red heart emojis.

Noelle Sembrick, Kolton Kaminski, Natalee Sembrick, Kassidi Kaminski and Nicholas Sembrick: Love looks like the bond between siblings who aren’t blood related but still call each other family.

I then ask why, as a generation, do we fear the truest form of the word “love” and bastardize it through abbreviations and insincere interjections?  Why do we fail to appreciate the fullness of love? Why do we hide behind a screen and guard our emotions with technological substitutions?

Love – like it’s supposed to be – doesn’t exist to us anymore; we’ve deemed it malleable and manipulated its intended meaning. Love is sacrificing your time when someone you care about faces a trial. It’s not how many “likes” you receive on a picture of your face. Love is showing vulnerability to a person, showing them that they are worthy to be loved, and allowing yourself to accept their love in return. Love is not manipulating someone’s vulnerability, nor is it subjecting yourself to an abusive relationship or one-night-stand that compromises your value.  Love is a purposeful, long-term effort to live in cohesion; it is not instant gratification from vapid, meaningless hookups.

Maybe we need to take a break from the word love until we can all collectively agree to return to it its proper meaning. Maybe it’s no longer enough to say that “God loves us” or “I love you” because that kind of love means far more than insincere hyperbole or abbreviated text.

So the next time you catch yourself overusing or misusing the word “love,” stop yourself. And remind yourself of what love really is and how your life is incomprehensibly enriched because of it.