Choose Love

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I was watching a popular TV drama that portrays several heart-wrenching situations of unrequited love and of broken or damaged relationships. At the climax of the show, the lead character had a heated discussion with another person in which she shouted out tearfully, "You can't choose who you love!"

This, then, was supposed to be the great truth illustrated in this drama: Love brings highs and lows. It can be wonderful or devastating. In the end, we have to take what we get because we don't get to choose whom we love.

Almost as soon as the words came out of that character's mouth, I shouted, "That's not true!" at the television.

It wasn't listening, so I ranted to my wife instead. "We do have a choice. Love isn't just some accident we have no control over. These TV writers say these things and tell fictional stories as so-called proof. Then people believe them, and their lives get ruined!"

Yes, I do have strong feelings on this subject. It's because many young people believe the myth that you can't choose whom you love. They miss the happiness that could light up their lives. The idea of "accidental love" simply isn't true! You have much more control than you think. Choices in love are tied to making choices with your time.

What love is

To make choices about love, we need to understand what love is. You may already disagree with me because you have "fallen in love," and it does seem to come out of nowhere and to be completely beyond control. Everyone experiences that at some time or another, and it's a wonderful, exhilarating thing. But there's more to love than that—much more!

Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary lists 24 different definitions under the entry "love." Obviously the word is used in many different ways.

The base definition is "a feeling of warm personal attachment," but we often intend this one: "profoundly tender or passionate affection for a person of the opposite sex." And we'll focus on this shortly. Of course, used as a verb, to love is to experience such feelings. Let's look beyond dictionaries, though, to understand that love—real, deep love—is more than a feeling.

Vertical thinkers look to the Bible as the ultimate source of truth—and it has a lot to say about love! It shows that love includes feelings, but that there is also a focus on doing. The apostle John wrote what could be called a Bible definition of love when it comes to our relationship with God: "This is love, that we walk according to His [God's] commandments" (2 John 6, emphasis added throughout).

Inward feeling and motivation must translate into action. As John also wrote, "Let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).

In other words, "Talk is cheap; you show love by what you do." Doing something requires a commitment of a portion of our limited time.

A song from a while back contains these words in the chorus: "Love is not a feeling, it's an act of your will." I partly disagree with that because love does include feeling—a deep feeling of affection and outflowing concern—but it's much more than just what you feel. It's also the actions you take.

That's where we all have some control and can make choices. Sometimes it seems impossible to control your feelings, but when you control what you do with your time, that powerfully controls how you feel. Yes, even when it comes to falling in love.

Love whom and when?

The most important things we should control when it comes to romantic love is whom to love and when to do so.

A lot of people think falling in love only happens by accident—sneaking up and hitting them over the head when they aren't looking. Being attracted to someone may happen that way, but developing feelings of love takes more time. You can't have romantic love for someone you don't know, and you can't get to know someone unless you spend time with him or her. So the first key to choosing whom you love is choosing whom you spend your time with and how you do it.

In almost all cases, it's best to prepare for a career before committing to marriage. Falling in love too soon has caused many young men and women to drop out of college, or settle for an inferior career in order to be with that someone special.

It's better to decide in advance at what stage of life romance will be best for you. Then, wait until then to date or spend lots of time with any one person of the opposite sex. In the Bible, King Solomon advised that we not wake up love until the time is right (see Song of Solomon 8:4). Meanwhile, spend time with a wide variety of people. Learn what traits are most compatible with you. Then when that right time comes, you'll know the type of person to be devoting your time to.

Challenge and honesty

This can be hard. If you sense strong feelings of attraction developing toward someone, you may have to force yourself to spend less time with that person until the time is right. Otherwise, you may be giving up the choice that should be yours to make with a clearer head. You choose whom you might love by choosing whom you spend time with.

You don't need to keep your motivations a secret. Telling a person openly that you like him or her but aren't ready to have a deeper relationship will benefit you both. It could even keep a path open to that other person when the right time comes. The other side of this, of course, is that you can't choose how another person will feel about you—but that's a topic for another time.

Controlling the type of person you spend time with is vital to choosing the person you'll fall in love with, even more than when it will happen. Love usually starts with mutual attraction, but it can only grow on a basis of common interests, shared standards and similar goals.

Some of these traits are more important than others. A man who likes rock-n-roll can build a happy marriage with a girl who loves country music. But when a man and woman allow themselves to fall in love while fundamentally disagreeing on things like religion, politics or even financial habits, they're setting themselves up to become like the characters on television who seem to suffer so much for love.

It's way better to fall in love in the first place with someone who makes a good match for you. TV writers may say that you can't choose whom you love, but you can—or at least you can choose whom you won't love.

If a potential love interest holds different values than you, don't give him or her much of your time—no matter how attractive he or she is. Otherwise, you may soon be in tears wondering why you couldn't choose to love someone who was a good match. You can choose by choosing whom you spend time with. It may be a tough choice, but it's well worth making. Wise choices about your time make wise choices about love and future marriage.