Do we need a new word for love?
Love. It’s such a powerful, moving, and evocative word. Does a day go by without us saying it? Or thinking about it?
We say ‘I love you’, to our partner as we leave the house in the morning. We whisper ‘I love you’, as we say goodnight to our kids.
But we also say, ‘I love this’, about the latest hilarious YouTube video doing the rounds. And we ‘love’ the new pair of jeans we just bought. And our friend’s new puppy.
We love anything and everything nowadays it seems.
But if we love everything, do we truly love anything?
Has ‘love’ become merely a tired platitude? Are we using ‘love’ so frequently and so casually, that it’s been stripped of any meaning?
And then there’s the golden rule: Love your neighbour as you love yourself. We’d all agree with it, but what does that look like in practice? All too often, in this context, love has become a passive word. Instead of serving, or supporting, or helping, or being generous to our neighbour, we passively take on a do no harm posture. Which is better than nothing, but it’s not love.
Love is active. Love reaches out. Love sacrifices. Love does, as the inspirational Bob Goff would say.
True love is seen. It’s demonstrated. It goes beyond words.
Which makes me wonder. If we have started to use the word ‘love’ in so many passive ways, is it time for a new word?
What about kindness? For me, kindness is not passive. If I’m kind to someone, I am proactively doing something for someone. It is has no parallel meaning of ‘I like this a lot’ which love battles with.
‘Be kind to your neighbour as you are kind to yourself.’ It might not work for you, but at this point in time, I find that rephrasing helpful. It’s not a platitude of the heart — it’s a behaviour I embody.
Being kind to a homeless person means doing something for that homeless person. It’s so easy to say we care about and love the homeless, it’s far harder to be doers.
Switching our thinking from love (and its temptation to be passive) to kindness (with its implied proactivity) is a helpful shift for me.
The Oxford Dictionary’s primary definition of love is, ‘An intense feeling of deep affection’. Kindness however is defined as, ‘The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate’.
Our world needs more from us than intense feelings. It needs action. Making the mental shift from love to kindness won’t work for us all but, for me, at this time, it feels like a helpful reframing.