Feel the love?

Falling out of love
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I’m an incorrigible romantic, so I’m hoping to drag husband along to Madonna’s new film about Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII.

Describing her credentials for directing the film, the queen of pop says she knows “…what it feels like to be swept off your feet and to feel a deep love…”. But, having experienced her fair share of break-ups, she’s also keen to point out that lasting relationships need more than that.

Divorce lawyers Grant Thornton suggested that celebrities such as Madonna were encouraging the rest of us to view love selfishly, as they published news that in the last year ‘falling out of love’ replaced infidelity as the top cause of marriage breakdown.

It is natural to equate feelings with relationships. A psychological study of a man with a recently-acquired brain injury found that he no longer had any feelings when he saw his mother, so he concluded that she wasn’t his mother, and wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise.

But what if we don’t feel love for a partner, friend, colleague or stranger? Does that leave no hope for a loving relationship?

Love triangle
Thankfully love, as modelled in the Bible, is not based on capricious Cupids and fluffy feelings. Like its counterparts, faith and hope, feelings are intrinsically linked to thoughts and the will. The three form a triangle, each influencing the others. But the will is where the rubber hits the road.

The beauty of this truth is that we are never held captive by lack of love – love is an action. So whether or not we feel love, we choose to act lovingly.

Jesus called us to, “Love each other as I have loved you.” Which is no candyfloss kind of love when you consider, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Brain changer
The bonus is that acting in love can change the way we feel as well.

Clinical psychologist Dr Lara Honos-Webb explains, “When we help others and do kind acts, it causes our brain to release endorphins, the chemicals that give us feelings of fervor and high spirits” and “…gives the brain a serotonin boost, the chemical that gives us that feeling of satisfaction and well-being.”

There is also a phenomenon called the investment effect. It turns on its head the notion that we do things for those we love: Of course we do, but we also love those for whom we do things. The more time and effort we invest in a person, the more we want to see the best for them.

Just do it!
In an ideal world we would always have pure motivations to love people simply because they are human beings made in the image of God, and never, even partly, because it makes us look good or because we feel better for it.

Most of us will never have such consistently unblemished motives. But Jesus didn’t ask us to love, he told us.

Mother Theresa said, “If you are kind, people will accuse you of selfish motives; be kind anyway.”

So don’t sit around waiting to feel the love for your partner, friend or someone you pass in the street. Just get out there and love.