“How do I know what love is?” Jensen asked. It was an honest question from a teen. I processed how to answer her realizing the culture around her has conflicting messages about love, relationships, and affection.
Love is becoming an elusive term. When I’ve talked to local students at the surrounding high schools, there’s a consensus among today’s teens and young adults that they really don’t know what love is. The following statements were made from local teens:
“Our generation doesn’t know what love is.”
“We are confused between lust and love.”
“Love is so overused. It’s lost its meaning.”
People using social media convey love with emoji’s and flippant words, sending messages back and forth without really considering what’s being said or the intent of the words. A dating partner might use “love” to coerce or manipulate someone into having a sexual encounter.
The prevalence of online pornography is teaching kids, even in middle school or younger, that lust is what physical intimacy is about, not love.
How can we do a better job teaching, talking about, and modeling love in our relationships and with our children? Here are some sentiments about love that should be conveyed to kids, teens, young adults, and the communities around us.
Love should be reciprocal, not one-sided. Often teens or young adults are in relationships that are one-sided, where they give love, affection, even intimate relations, and yet they don’t have care or concern for their well-being reciprocated. This is not love.
Love involves consent, with both parties respecting the other person’s physical, emotional, and sexual boundaries. Disrespecting a person’s boundaries is toxic and is not loving. Consent is an enthusiastic “yes” about something, not a yes that is coerced, manipulated, or threatened. Consent is not the absence of no.
Love cares for the other person and does not treat them like an object. Lust objectifies a person, which is what is portrayed in online media, movies, songs, and inappropriate images. Lust doesn’t care about the person who is the object of the lust. Lust only thinks about immediate gratification and pleasure. Love doesn’t treat a person this way.
Love gives freedom and respect to both people in a relationship. Love is not controlling.
Love shares equal power in a relationship. Love is sharing decisions, considering the other person’s feelings, opinions, and values equal to your own, even when they are different.
Love is patient, kind, and is not jealous, boisterous or rude. Love sees the best in the other person. Love involves honesty, trust, and commitment. See 1 Corinthians 13 for the embodiment of godly love.
Love doesn’t not shame, blame, or embarrass the other person.
Love is loyalty, not cheating on the person with affections or a relationship with someone else.
Love is more than a feeling. It’s a choice.
If you’re a parent, grandparent, or someone who has a relationship with a teen or young adult, talk to them about the qualities of love. For all of us, let’s be mindful of how often we say “I love you,” especially if we don’t really mean it. Will you join me in bringing back the honor of love to those around us by making it an important, special, and highly honored gift?