A brochure Lighthouse distributes poses a question many will be asking this Valentine’s weekend: “Is it love?” Those who are newly “in a relationship” will want to know if their infatuation is really love, or how deeply their boyfriend or girlfriend cares for them – perhaps using chocolate or flowers as a measure of love.
Still others will attend a showing of Fifty Shades of Grey, and analyze whether the relationship in the movie is a loving one. Spoiler alert: I have not seen the movie or read the books, but since I don’t live under a rock, I have read reviews and seen previews. One psychiatrist, Dr. Miriam Grossman, summarizes the movie this way:
The movie is actually about a sick, dangerous relationship filled with physical and emotional abuse. It seems glamorous, because the actors are gorgeous, have expensive cars and planes, and Beyonce is singing.
This is what you need to know about Fifty Shades of Grey: as a child, Christian Grey was terribly neglected. He is confused about love because he never experienced the real thing. In his mind, love is tangled up with bad feelings like pain and embarrassment. Christian enjoys hurting women in bizarre ways. Anastasia is an immature girl who falls for Christian’s looks and wealth, and foolishly goes along with his desires.
In the real world, this story would end badly, with Christian in jail, and Ana in a shelter – or morgue. Or Christian would continue beating Ana, and she’d stay and suffer. Either way, their lives would most definitely not be a fairy tale.
I look – not to the movies – but to the Holy Scriptures for my definition of love. The famous love chapter in first Corinthians defines it this way: 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.
Recently I have seen real love demonstrated in some unsexy but practical ways. Like when my husband sits with my mom at the nursing home to calm her anxiety. Or when he feeds the pets without being asked. There is a time and place for romance (he actually made dinner reservations for Valentine’s Day!), but it should never include manipulation or abuse of any kind. Real love doesn’t harm you. Real love protects and seeks the best for you.
This Valentine’s Day don’t settle for less than real love. And try something unconventional but safe: do something loving for someone you care about. Candy and flowers, optional.