“An ugly truth is better than a beautiful lie” is an apt adage when discussing the authenticity of love. Love is not a feeling, nor can it be reduced to mere words. This is not to say that loving words do not matter, but those words must be supported by a love that is visible and tangible. Love embodies demonstrable action. Loving people “talk the talk and walk the walk.” In Romans 12:9 we are taught for our love to be sincere. Love is going above and beyond, not only when we feel like it. Love is a decision, a choice.
We are lying to ourselves when we mistakenly allow less than loving behavior from those we allow into our lives under the guise of love. Authentic love does not mean letting an offense recur again and again. We don’t have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse. While authentic love calls us to forgive others we can and should still hold others accountable for their unloving behavior. It is disingenuous when someone does not act in a loving manner to those they claim to care about most. As Christians, we are called to “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God, so that it became a sweet fragrance.” (Ephesians 5:2)
A favorite scripture often recited in wedding ceremonies is 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. These verses do not express any of the romantic feelings we associate with love, but rather they convey the demonstrable actions of authentic love. We do not “fall out of love”, but fail to act upon being loving. To fall out of love is to stop caring, stop making the effort, and to completely give up on love. Couples who say they have “fallen out of love” may not have grasped the self-donative aspect of love that is eloquently expressed by St John Paul the Great in his teachings on Theology of the Body. Many couples focus on attraction and not on the call to action that love requires. Too often we equate love with only warm emotional feelings, but warm romantic feelings are the result of love, not the essence of love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
So, why do we stand for such loveless behavior from ourselves and others? Some would say that we do not think we deserve better, thus we settle for a meager, shallow and unfulfilling version of love. It is only when we recognize the perfect love of Christ that we are driven to give and receive love to worthy depths. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It was not because we were attractive or for our accomplishments, but simply because He loves us. We are to love and be loved unconditionally as Jesus loves us. His love is a sacrificing and selfless love. It is a love that shows itself in action.
This life-giving task of uncovering the beauty of authentic love may best be approached with a Catholic therapist; a therapist in alignment with the Magisterium who can walk on this journey with you into a deeper spiritual life, help you find emotional healing, and to develop the skills necessary for truly healthy, loving relationships.
We will then be well on our way to living the abundant life God intends for us once our hearts are full of the authenticity of love only found in Christ Jesus.
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
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