This summer, I started to defend my apparent over-use of the word “love.” I bought a journal for the year with “Love... Of course” written on the cover, bought my first pagne that the lady told me stood for “love” (and April told me that was probably the only word in English she knew, but it felt like a sign!), and started noticing every use of the word “love” in the Biblical passages I read.
There are times when I use “love” where “thoroughly enjoy” or “extremely like” would be more appropriate. But when I use “love” to talk about how I feel about someone, I don’t feel that it is misused. I’ve been told that both the frequency of times I say it and the number of people I say it to “cheapen” the word when it leaves my mouth. Even just now, Sarah came in laughing because she keeps finding “I love you, Miss Sarah” in random places in her classroom. I have to say, though, my use of the word has greatly decreased in the past four months- I think part of my inspiration for usage was environment/company dependent.
As I think about this particular character trait of mine, I keep wondering where it came from. My parents told me they loved me growing up, but it’s not like other people’s parents didn’t- and I don’t think I “loved” everything as a child any more than every other little drama queen in the world. No, there was nothing special about my childhood that made me use the word “love” so much.
So where does it come from? Well, I love when people tell me that I mean something special to them. I think everyone does- there’s something life-changing about knowing you make someone’s day by smiling at them or calling them or even thinking about them (and letting them know, of course, because otherwise this wouldn’t be common knowledge). My heart smiles when I get a text message, when my phone rings, or when I get mail (that is actually from someone, of course). **Side Note: This summer, I got a piece of mail congratulating me on my recent marriage. It was from an insurance company asking “what better way to start a life together than to blah blah blah.” I kept it, brought it to Togo, and still get great joy when I think about it. This particular piece of mail doesn’t prove my “someone special” thing at all. End side note** There’s a psychological principle that says we project our feelings/thoughts/lots of other things onto others. Well, since I like hearing “I love you” from people who do, I figure other people like hearing it, too.
Another reason I can think of is that somewhere in my subconscious (and also often my conscious thought) I’m desperately afraid of something happening to either myself or someone I care about without them knowing how I feel about them. When I was a crazy-emotional teenager, I used to leave the house to walk to the bus-stop after fighting with my mother. I would get to the bus-stop, go to school, and have a horrible day. As I got older, I would start the trek angry, get halfway to the stop and run back home, sobbing, to tell my mother that I loved her and I didn’t mean it. Those mornings, she would either have to drive me to the bus-stop or drive me to school for me to get there. She would hug me and we would make up, then my day wouldn’t be ruined.
In Eighth grade, the boy that sat next to me in English class, BJ, was in a car accident over Christmas break and he and his brother were killed. BJ and I never really got along, but his death made me seriously consider the last words I said to someone. The interesting thing is that the last thing I said to BJ wasn’t something awful, but I know it wasn’t necessarily nice, either.
This last summer, a good family friend passed away in her sleep after church. It was completely unexpected and very hard to deal with. She was a beautiful, godly woman who had an amazing family, an amazing spirit, and a serving heart. Earlier in the summer, a friend I had visited in hospice before I left for New Zealand told me to live a life for God and to live it well. I found out when I got home that he had passed away a few weeks before. This fall, my friend Scott passed away after a year-long battle with cancer. I loved each of these people very much, and I am pretty sure each of them knew it. That’s important to me.
Now, please don’t be worried that I have a fatalist mind-set and always tell people I love them in case they die. That would be extreme, and I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. But I do think that living my life in such a way that those around me know what they mean to me is important to both me and them.
This entire blog post came from thoughts originating with one of my new friends. Last Sunday at “Dinner with the Emersons” (it’s like one of my favorite shows, so I’m punctuating it as such), four-year-old Caden said, “I love this chicken.” His mother then explained that he had discovered the word “love” and was now using it in many sentences. After, “I love this corn,” I told Brett and April that spending four days with me on safari is what did it.
I love Caden. And I love you. So there.