Monday, 16 May 2016

Love is... a choice

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net
When I was newly engaged, somewhere I came across the concept that love was a choice. It stuck with me through the years, through the easy and the hard times. It resonated with me deeply. I could hear it ring in my head, sometimes condemning when I was very hurt and confused and angry and didn't want to act loving, and sometimes in celebration when it was easy and fun and seemed so natural.  I could choose to love.


I believe strongly in the power of choice. For me, it's a foundational truth. We were given free will. Whatever happens is the result of a choice.. maybe not mine, maybe not anyone living, and maybe that particular happening is the result of the broken world... but the broken world we live in is still the result of a choice made however many generations ago.

A choice is mentally assenting, judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one (or more) of them. It is a function of the will, not the hand. The physical, emotional, even the spiritual actions we take are from this will, this choice.

So love is a choice. What are the options then? Choose to love, to hate.. and to be indifferent. To merely not love.  There's a vast difference between active hate and apathetic indifference. And of the two, apathy is far more dangerous.

 Stuart Miles@ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Love and hate both have a target. Love looks for the best and hate looks for the worst. Love helps and hate hurts. Indifference doesn't have a target. Indifference doesn't even see. Indifference doesn't care. Hatred and love are both emotional, indifference has no feelings attached. Things done indifferently are far more violent than things done in the name of love or hate.  Hate and love are two sides of the same coin --- polar opposites. You can't hate without having loved first. Indifference means dropping the coin altogether. Most of us live our lives indifferent to everyone else we share the air with.

Love is a choice. In order to choose to love, first we need to see. In order to love, you need to have a beloved. We need to train our eyes to truly see those around us, see them as human beings, bearing the image of God, and worth loving, if only because of that God-reflection.

The Bible says that what comes out of our mouths is a reflection and result of what is in our hearts. That would logically suggest that the first step to loving is to make sure your heart is right. How do you do this?

During the first separation from my ex, I attended a workshop seminar. There were lots of concepts that have shaped how I think and choose and react. One phrase that stuck out was "to think is to create". The idea was that our intentions don't really matter, if our core values, inner beliefs .. if our hearts .. weren't lined up with our intentions. What you create, what your life is like, is a direct result of what you truly believe, even if you don't know or acknowledge those beliefs, and say otherwise.

A second concept that has impacted me was that our core beliefs are changed only through repeated action. Actions enforce and change heart attitudes. By the way, actions here include what you say to yourself or others.  Actions, repeated regularly and frequently, create habits, and habits then impact what we believe.  Human beings are creatures of habit. We want what we've always wanted. We want what we've always had. That's what makes change so hard.

How do you change a habit? Especially a habit that is tied up in a heart belief? The Bible says to renew your mind. Become transformed by the power of the Word of God. Habits are a product of the mind, so we can change our habits when we change our minds. When you speak the Word of God, when you speak truth, when you make choices based on what's right and wrong, what's loving and not, you will change your mind.
atibodyphoto @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It's a cycle. Actions come out of heart beliefs, but actions change heart beliefs. As you renew your mind, your actions change, and your heart changes, making it easier to change your habits, and it all becomes easier.   Basing habits on a renewed mind and changed heart, reinforced by actions, and transformation happens.

Recently my children were looking through my old photo albums. My oldest was born just before cell phone cameras were everywhere, so I had lots of printed pictures of her, and some of my next two. I used to buy the disposable cameras monthly, take the pictures, get them developed and buy the next cameras. But I have hardly any printed pictures of my youngest two, because they are all digital. And it dawned on me that I have actually taken few pictures of my children as they have gotten older. I just take less pictures in general.

I wanted to take more pictures. So I got on instagram. (Follow me here). And I make it a conscious choice to look for the opportunity for a picture. Apparently it's working, as I've taken so many in the last month or so now, that my phone memory is all used up! But it started with a choice. I had to start looking for the picture, in order to see it. I had to do something to make the change -- like signing up on Instagram. My actions, my choices, have led to a change in my lifestyle, where pictures are more included.

It all starts with a choice. Choose, actively, passionately, to love, not hate, not remain indifferent. It requires that we do something.

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