Our good friends have a dog named Scooter. She is a massive English mastiff roughly the size of a pony. Of course, she assumes she is a tiny lap dog and is constantly hoping to cuddle. She is sweet, just in a super-sized in-your-face kind of way.
She sounds adorable and easy to love, right?
Actually, Scooter is pretty annoying. A lot.
She drools everywhere, whines constantly, and has an irrational fear of steps — not a good sign in a three-story townhouse!
My question is this: How do you love when you just don’t feel like loving?
Scooter’s owners love her dearly. But to understand why, you first have to understand their definition of love.
I’m not talking about the fuzzy feeling you get when you like being around them. Nor the sense of attraction to or desire for something else. I’m talking about the verb — the active, intentional, “I’m going to love you no matter what you do” kind of love.
Scooter’s owners made the conscious decision not to base their love on her behavior. Or how much she barks. Or how often she poops on the floor. They displaced that “love” with a pure, unconditional love not dependent on anything she could do to earn or lose it.
Since they’ve made that decision to love Scooter, they’ve been free to enjoy her more and be amused by her desire to drool and cuddle all over your lap.
I’m not saying it’s rainbows and butterflies, because it isn’t. Our friends do get irritated with Scooter. But this is infinitely better than the alternative: “Love” as a feeling based on how others act and treat you.
As a noun, “love” is shallow. It is easier, though fleeting and hopeless and empty.
Yet love as a verb is fulfilling and powerful and lasting. And tough.
What are you going to do about your annoying family member or awkward neighbor? How will you treat your co-worker with the shady morals?
If you are waiting to feel “love” [noun] before you love [verb] someone, it isn’t going to happen at all.
If you dole out affection to someone based on her behavior, what are the big picture results?