By Karin Steyn
Love! The most wondrous thing of all is man's capacity to love. The unfortunate thing is that so many people misunderstand the nature of love. When we read the Bible at 1 Corinthians 13, we see in verses 4 to 8 nine important things that love is not.
Let's look at each of the nine aspects:
1. Love is not jealous. Jealousy is an intense emotion. It is selfish and has more to do with hate than love. Jealousy can ruin a good relationship. Jealousy leads to anger and we cannot associate jealousy and anger with love. Being jealous or arousing jealousy in others is equally destructive. The only way to control jealousy is to analyze the cause. Once the cause has been brought to surface, it can be dealt with.
2. Love does not brag. Bragging is self-exultation and makes one superior to another. Nothing justifies bragging. Advertising your own talents and strengths is not commendable. Modesty is a virtue. It helps us to recognize the fact that we are imperfect; a mere speck of dust on the scale of the universe. It also helps us to stand prepared; always ready to learn something from someone else.
3. Love does not get puffed up. This is just another form of self-exultation. Being proud is quite the opposite of being humble. Humility is not weakness. It's an act of love. The point is to draw people closer to the warmth of your personality. Being haughty only makes others feel uncomfortable and they are repelled. The good thing about love lies in its power to conquer pride. By humbling ourselves we learn to recognize the talents and strengths of others and we appreciate their value in society. Being humble also makes us teachable. And we are never too old to learn something.
4. Love does not behave indecently. Having unloving disregard for others seemingly cannot be love. Being rude or offensive is not love. Everything big and in the spotlight is noticeable, and rudeness and indecency thrive on attention. Manners decay on a daily basis. People do not care about what they say or do, and they have no regard for the consequences of their words or behavior. They live only for themselves. Modesty is perhaps then the key to making us aware of our flaws and our limitations. When we look at nature and the splendor of God's creation, we experience a sense of awe and we feel small. Perhaps we should spend more time in the company of trees or mountains to realize that life is beautiful and its gift is love.
5. Love does not look for its own interests. People pursue pleasure and self-gain. Some pursue these things by means of drugs, alcohol or illicit behavior. There is nothing wrong in seeking wholesome pleasure. The point is to do so keeping other people's interests in mind. Every imperfect person on earth is inclined to being selfish or self-centered. We live in a world of stress and competition which adds to the inclination to reward ourselves for all the suffering that is inflicted upon us on a daily basis. But, we must always keep the golden rule in our hearts: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Reaching out to others and looking to their interests is rewarding too. After all, there is wisdom in the Biblical advice that says it is better to give than to receive.
6. Love does not become provoked. Many times anger is likened to madness. It's a question of losing control. So many people will advise you to count to ten or to take a deep breath. Others will say "Walk away". Patience is the virtue that walks hand in hand with love. Knowing that everyone - including ourselves - suffers imperfection is the greatest of all reasons to be patient and considerate towards those around us, without having to resolve to anger and bitterness every time we feel an injustice has been done. Mildness of spirit conquers provocation. I always wonder at impatience and anger. We live in an imperfect world with a system that constantly fails us. Yet we expect more of it. Wisdom should allow us to expect more problems and mistakes. A selfish ignorance will demand perfection.
7. Love does not keep account of the injury. Being resentful and harboring grudges is not love. Forgiving and forgetting is the best remedy to continue life in happiness. To forgive means letting go. It is wrong to hate so when we try at all times to be reasonable, we should also keep in mind that love conquers many sins. Forgetting is not easy, but harboring a grudge can rob us of our happiness, destroying our future because we keep dwelling on the past. Time is said to heal all things. Keeping a diary of injustices to eventually wreak revenge leaves no room for healing.
8. Love does not rejoice over unrighteousness. When we selfishly enjoy the suffering or ill-luck of others we are indirectly being heartless to someone who also believes in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who died at the stake. After all, Christ's blood was shed for everyone. How can we rejoice in another's misery? The welfare of people in general is important to our heavenly father. We should imitate the same concern he does.
9. Love never fails. Love is successful and will never disappoint. Love is pure. It unites and it heals. Love will never cease to exist.