There is this popular standing debate on friendship and marriage: ‘whether to marry a friend or make your spouse a friend.’ I have at different points in my life agreed with either; neeways I am convinced that my husband will/should/must be my friend (before or after marriage). Knowing myself, I am not sure how I will thrive (or even survive) the extended period of being married to someone I cannot call a good friend. But that is not what this piece is really about.
I am no expert on love or relationships (I have been down that road only a few times) and ‘Love’ is one of the things I consider really difficult to discuss (based on the varied opinions and experiences) let alone write about. Nonetheless I have been truly blessed with a significant number of friends and I have learnt a thing or two from these (the successful ones as well as the ones that failed). One of my favorite gifts from childhood was a wall-hanging a Sunday School teacher gave me which depicted the well-known Bible passage on Love from 1st Corinthians 13. I memorised the passage by rote and my perception of love has been shaped notably by it. This is a (very) non-exhaustive and probably biased appreciation of love based on this piece from the Apostle Paul.
Love is patient
I am probably the last person to write on patience; I am a sucker for promptness, I eat microwaved food, I believe in quick responses to emails and instant messages. But I believe the writer of 1 Corinthians 13 is talking about more than these depictions of patience, he is talking more about an attitude of long-suffering and endurance. There is this well-known poem I love which says:
“I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong. I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve. I asked for prosperity and God gave me brawn and brains to work. I asked for courage and God gave me dangers to overcome. I asked for PATIENCE and God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait. I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help. I asked for favors and God gave me opportunities. I asked for everything so I could enjoy life. Instead, He gave me life so I could enjoy everything. I received nothing I wanted, I received everything I needed.”
Not a day goes by where I do not pray for patience and I am tempted to think God has given me some of his most stubborn children to love and whew!!… on that I am very much work in progress 😉
Love is kind; Love does not behave rudely
In my honest opinion, the ultimate expression of love is kindness- acts and words of kindness. It is natural to believe that the person who is kind to us (in words and deeds) has some affection for us. We measure love with the kind actions of others: food, clothing and shelter to the poor and needy, assistance to the aged and less-priveleged than we are, time and resources shared with the sick but to mention a few. A thoughtful word to the sad, an encouraging and uplifting word to the depressed, comforting words to the bereaved etc… Kindness is the language of love- No one can be loving and unkind at the same time.
Love does not envy
Many times over people close to us seem to get the very things we think we deserve, a particular course of study, our desired job/career, finances, property, spouse of our dreams (and wedding ceremony 😏), children etc… This is even more exaggerated with social media where everything is out there and most times extremely hyped. After one of one of my closest friends got married, she went through the very unwarranted period (the one society enforces) where everyone keeps inundating you with the pressure of having a baby. Anytime there was a picture of her and a baby, the comments were rife with unfortunate statements like ‘when is yours?’, ‘why are you so happy with other babies?’ (Yes really!), ‘What are you waiting for?’ etc… I probably found the whole situation more annoying so once in a conversation, I asked how she felt. She admitted although she really wanted a child too, there was no reason not to be genuinely happy for others who had been blessed with what she was trusting God for. That really spoke to me and was my lesson in love not being envious. Love is truly being happy with your lot and also that of others.
Love does not boast, Love is not proud
There is no arrogance in love. In pride we become the objects of our own love; in humility we learn to love others. Many years ago (and no I am not that old), I was friends with a gentleman (gentleman used advisedly) whose security was nicely woven around his accomplishments- his citizenship status, job, family members, circle of friends etc… (Admittedly he had a lot to be proud of). I am not one to criticise people who find it needful to brag about who they are and what they have achieved (so long as it is true and they are not exaggerating) but his was filled with a certain contempt and condecession for others he didn’t believe were in the same situation as he. Fortunately it didn’t take me too long to realise there was ‘love’ but it was that of self only and I had no place in there. I consider a healthy dose of self-love important; no, actually absolutely necessary but there is self-love and there is conceit and narcissism and it is quite easy to tell the difference.
Love does not seek its own
Selfishness is a natural attribute, we are conditioned to think of ourselves first (and maybe rightly so). We live in a world of individual radicalism and therefore we are consumed with self interest but then, there comes a point when you have to put the needs of others ahead of yours.
Nothing speaks to me more about this than the love of a parent for his child. To sacrifice dreams, ambition, interests, comfort, happiness and sleep (lol) to ensure that a child thrives and lives a better life than the parent. We all have stories of our parents, family, self and friends who have show us that love is not preoccupied with self. Love is sacrifice.
Love is not easily provoked, Love keeps no record of wrongs;
Love does not rejoice about injustice, Love rejoices in the truth
One of my favourite people ever, and I am sure for many other people is Nelson Mandela. I believe his greatness lied (I hate to use the past tense for him 😞) in his humility and modesty but also his forgiving nature. In one of my best movies about the apartheid, ‘Catch a fire’, the protagonist Patrick Chammuso (played brilliantly by the talented Derek Luke) says he learnt forgiveness from Mandela; that we could never be free until we learnt to forgive. After suffering the many evils of apartheid and serving a prison term arising from betrayal by his wife; in the last and powerful scene when he had a chance to play revenge on his nemesis, a white police man (Nic Vos, played by the equally talented Tim Robbins) he says: “Revenge is not good…. Let me allow him live and then I will be free…then I am free and everyone is free”
Mahatma Ghandi says; “The weak can never forgive, forgiveness is an attribute go the strong” and it is only by loving that we learn to forgive and free ourselves from pain, hurt, wrong, injustice and live with/in peace.
Love bears all things, Love believes all things, Love hopes all things,
Love endures all things.
There is a certain vulnerability that comes with Love. You find yourself tolerating or dealing with people and issues in unusual ways. When you recount an experience to people who know you well, they are surprised. But then again you surprise yourself too. We all like to feel in control, secured, guarded, not exposed; that is our construction of strength. But then you get to a point when you realise you care about the things that never mattered to you; suddenly someone can get you to be emotional about such. Then we begin to fear falling/being in love and losing that control. I am realising, however that the irony of vulnerability in love is that it is actually the stronger position. When you put your heart on the line, you give it to somebody/something and trust it will be appreciated, when you expose who you are and believe you won’t be hurt –that risk may just be true strength. You MIGHT get broken but you heart will be stronger and better off with the experience. Loving may come with hurt and the fear of this hurt comes with a different kind of pain, one of regret and wondering what could have been.
C.S Lewis puts it best when he writes: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Love never fails
We all crave the constant, unchanging love. One that does not wax or wane. A steady and rock solid one that is not based on whims, feeling and fancies.
We gawk at the happily ever after stories; the love that triumphs in the end, the love that conquers all adversity in the fairly-tales. There is the expectation and belief that true love will conquer all and last forever!
NB: I do not know of any person who possesses all these ‘lovely’ attributes. We are all work in progress and strive for perfection. I admit it is not the easiest to follow through, but then again no ideal ever is. The Bible talks of this love as the standard, the goal, perfection, that which we have from God and as humans we only strive to attain.
Dedicated to the many people in my life who teach me daily about love and especially today on the wedding anniversary of one of my favourite couples: Michael and Naa Norkor Dakwa ❤❤