Who Do You Love? (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist)

I think most people must be far more careful with saying “I love you.”

I do not refer merely to romantic love, or eros or whatever the hell you want to call the kissy-kissy kind. I mean any kind of love, for none of them are really as insignificant as we sometimes make them out to be in our society.

There are so many varieties of love that I think it actually becomes easier to make inappropriate use of the word. For if we simply stipulate to ourselves that there are “all kinds of love” and recognize that we feel at least some sort of affinity for another person, we can label it “love” right off, and reap the benefits of expressing that to someone, without putting in the mental effort and the time to determine which type of love it is, or if in fact it is love at all. And when harebrained applications of the term come back to haunt us, we can enjoy the ass-covering convenience of saying, “Well, I didn’t mean that kind of love.”

For some, I imagine this is done with intent. They enjoy the theatrics and the potency of saying to someone, “I love you,” and all of the almost reflexive responses that come about when others hear those three words. (Especially for the very first time from someone.) For even if it is clearly not meant in a romantic fashion, we live in a world so potentially lonely and void of meaning that we tend to latch on to those words in any context. Which of course is a problem in and of itself, as well as yet another reason we all should be far more careful with making the most famous of human declarations.

Yet I am willing to conclude, for now, that it is just as often falsely declared as a result of laziness. We don’t feel like delving into the nature of what we truly mean, and saying something is far easier than proving it through actions anyway. So we slap an “I love you” on something, and think we have done the ultimate favor. We don’t specifically intend to cause trouble or pain, but our carelessness makes such outcomes far more likely. Not unlike firing a gun into the air in celebration. No harm is intended, but it isn’t at all a safe or responsible thing to be doing.

In this speed-of-light, social media age, take the time, for your sake and for the sake of others, to examine how you really feel towards any given individual. Be introspective enough to identify your own feelings before you engage in a potential powder keg of someone else’s. It cannot always be avoided, but certainly we can go a great distance by considering our true feelings in some depth before expressing them.

We really think we love someone who always makes us laugh. Or who has suffered what we are/were suffering. Or who stands up for a principle that we share. And sometimes just being around a person for an extended period of time, such as a classmate or co-worker of many years will make us conclude, incorrectly that our comfort and familiarity are in fact love. But are they?

You might be dealing with admiration. Or respect. Or awe. Gratitude perhaps. Appreciation. Each of them sometimes mixed in with a bit of lust to add to the confusion. In each of these cases we may find ourselves, either in a very somber moment, or in a casual everyday situation telling such a person, “I love you.” But how do you know for sure? We may never be 100% sure at first, but ask yourself some questions:

“What exactly am I feeling? Am I drawn to this whole person, or to an action they took? To one trait they posses? To their viewpoints? To the high level of enjoyment I get out of their company? If I took away any given major aspect of them, would I feel the same?”

And on and on. The point being to decide if you love the entire person. Not that we must love every aspect of the people we love, for we cannot. But certainly we can take the time to ask ourselves if we love more than an aspect of a person. And if we do not, we probably really do not love the person, and should call it something else. We shouldn’t say “I love you,” but instead express our appreciation for that aspect of them to which we feel drawn.

Just because love has many facets, doesn’t mean we are released from the responsibility of treating it with respect. Of understanding its awesome power in any form, and refraining from making reference to it lightly, without thought. The consequences of flippancy can be disastrous, for ourselves, the other person, and, when left to accumulate, the world. (Which I fear we may be seeing nowadays.)

Besides, love is a verb anyway, not a feeling. To love someone in any fashion is to serve them, not posses them. I am being more careful with how often I say it to someone, and trying to take with a grain of salt the times I have been told, “I love you, Ty” until such time as actions back up the words. For when actions back them up, it shows that I wasn’t told out of laziness or confusion, but out of a genuine desire for my betterment, sometimes even at the expense of the other person.

That’s love.


  1. Some of my thoughts:
    I don't think love is an intellectual exercise. It is something you either know or you don't. That said I do have thoughts about love 🙂

    I know who I love and the feeling is the same for each of them, but the expression of it is different.

    I didn't know what love was until I loved myself.

    Love is constant but we get in the way of it. It is about surrendering to the vulnerability of loving someone else and what they could do with that. That is a big ask and it requires trust, and a strong sense of self.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Heather.

    I don't think I am making love out to be an intellectual exercise. More like an exercise in self awareness. Being certain about one's feelings isn't an intellectual endeavor, but so many things can affect or distort our emotions, at least initially, that taking stock of them seems prudent to me.

    But I come from a background wherein many people have told me they love me, and very few of them ever actually take any action that would indicate that the words are true. Unreturned messages and phone calls, lack of emotional support in times of crisis. No invitations or visitations. All by people who at some point in time have told me the “love” me.

    Clearly they do not, and I do not wish to be one such person. So I try to always evaluate what I am feeling for someone. Not with my intellect, but with my heart.

  3. I'm sad to hear that you have experienced a mismatch between peoples' words and actions, and as I said we get in the way of love. That is also in the giving as well as the receiving of it. It is difficult to show love because it makes you vulnerable. What if you get rejected? With love there is uncertainty because you are dealing with other people's stuff. Love is about letting go.
    I think you can love someone and not show it.
    I think there are also people in this world who are incapable of feeling love, and therefore loving others. In psychology these individuals are studied to shed light on how emotions affect behaviour- e.g. Aspergers, autism. In many cases these individuals learn a script(and the actions) to fit in- that would include the words “I Love You”.

  4. There's a clear delineation between agape and eros. I feel agape for almost everybody, so I used to frequently say “I love you” to basically every acquaintance I had. This practice was swiftly stopped within a week or two.

    Interesting article on the devaluation of “love”: http://instigationology.com/fuck-i-love-you/

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