I put a lot more emphasis on the behavior of love than the feeling of love. I hear weekly from people who tell me about a significant other who is making them miserable. After listening to the magnitude and duration of the misery and to all the failed attempts to change the situation, I usually get around to saying something like, “Have you considered getting this person out of your life?” The answer comes back something like this, “Yes, but I love him/her.”
I think the feeling of love is important and should not be ignored. It gives us enough deep emotional connection to help us avoid making rash decisions and behaviors that we might regret. It gives us a “soul” connection that deepens our lives and gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. However, I found myself telling someone last week that Love is 20% feeling and 80% behavior. I’ll stick by that statement. A person may feel “love” for his child, but does he “act” loving such as keeping his promises, getting down on the child’s eye level for a serious talk, paying child support, keeping up with visitation even when it is very difficult. Love between friends might mean calling more often when that friend is more needy. Love usually means being honest when it is easier to placate a significant other.
In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck defined love as “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” This is a behavioral definition. Extending one’s self means acting loving in a way that allows the loved one, or one’s self, to grow and change.
And this definition brings up another aspect of the behavior of love. Does your behavior show love toward your self? Even if your “feeling” of self-esteem is low, you can still choose to “extend” yourself on your own behalf for your own personal growth, or, in other words, you can choose to behave lovingly toward your self. I believe that by consistently acting lovingly toward your self and others, you will create a deep feeling of love in your life.