Love is not blind. Love sees.
I’ve always been a fan of a good romance. Even as a teenager, when it felt cool to be the "logical one" among a sea of emotional friends, I’ve always been a romantic at heart.
I love the Hallmark movies where two strangers go from enemies to friends to lovers... the suspense when age-old friends deny their feelings until the last possible second... the two soulmates whose personalities complement one another perfectly.
And maybe it’s a typical thing for a romantic to do, ponder the definition of love.
I’m not sure...
I'm not sure that I've ever truly been in love. Maybe I’ve romanticized it.
So I’ve been asking people for about a year now; what does it mean to be in love? Here are a few of their answers:
What does it mean to be in love?
To sacrifice what you want for another person. Being in love is loving them with their flaws and not idealizing them.
Being in love requires courage. Your actions have more meaning and you take on more responsibility. It's a calling to nobility.
To be known on every level.
Being in love is a tingly feeling. It means living life in vibrant color. It also means feeling another’s joy and sorrow.
A cessation of rationality.
Being in love requires choosing someone regularly, compromise and sacrifice.
When you're in love, you're completely at peace. You're no longer managing their expectation of you. You're transparent.
That you would do anything for someone.
Still trying to figure it out.
A combination of attraction with the choice and action of staying with the person. Represented by what you can do for them.
Full transparency with someone which creates a bond of trust that helps you both to focus on God first.
Choosing the good for someone in your actions and words always.
To care for someone unconditionally. To desire for companionship, intimacy, and creating a life together.
(oh and you choose them over food)
You won't know until you experience it for the first time.
Valuing someone as much as you value yourself; willing their happiness first.
It tears one out of his ordinary experience & lands him in an adventure from which he will not emerge unscathed.
When you want their happiness even if it is not with you.
It’s not about you. It’s about how you want to love them and see them happy. It’s an ounce of how God feels about us.
It's pausing at the very climax of a book to take someone's call.
To choose to serve another person before yourself every day.
Knowing deep in your heart that God put you and this person together and nothing can separate it.
To adore what is unseen; all the beauty and imperfections of another's soul.
Love provides safety but also inspires you to reach past your boundaries.
- Sierra (part 2)
Love should be an every day thing; it is honest & dependable.
Growing stronger together. Instead of giving everything up for someone, you build on each other.
Love is the Tuesdays
- Jake Scott
Accepting each other in brokenness and relentlessly pursuing their greater good for the sake of the other.
What does it mean to be in love?
One common idea struck me. Many people, especially young adults, answered the question "what does it mean to be in love," saying something along the lines of:
Love is blind. Love is infatuation. Love is overlooking someone’s flaws.
But that doesn’t seem right. There is no effort in overlooking someone’s flaws. The honeymoon phase is easy. Idealizing someone is easy. It’s shallow, choosing not to see the depth, difficulties, and beautiful nuances of a person.
"Love is not blind, love sees." (Borrowed from one of my favorite authors, Peter Kreeft).
Plato echoes this in his Symposium, "He whom love touches not walks in darkness."
In the Bible, loving someone is often used with the word for knowing (Hayes; Genesis 4:1), from the Hebrew yada, meaning to understand someone fully or to "reveal" to someone with complete transparency.
So honestly, what is love?
Love is knowing someone fully and loving them unconditionally.
The people I talked to who have been in long relationships describe how love subtly moves from infatuation, or blind love, to companionship. Christian author C.S. Lewis describes this change more overtly: In his chapter on eros, or romantic love, he describes how lovers flaunt their attraction. They "are always talking to one another about their love" and "are normally face to face, absorbed in each other." This is where we get the idea that love is blind, and this is often evident in newer couples. They speak only of each other, the highlights of the relationship, date ideas, future plans, and often it's hard for them to register anything else. Romantic love can lead to planting the "interests of another in the centre of our being" (Lewis). This is why, someone in love can become more selfless, more kind... but only for a period.
Someone once asked me if being in a relationship can teach someone selflessness. After some thought, I replied no. For, in a relationship where you are infatuated with the other, or in Lewis' terms, you have erotic love for another, you will be selfless in a way. You will stumble over yourself for them, their interests the center of your life, making them happy your objective. However, this passion does not last. Eventually you become disenchanted, and should the relationship not work out, then you have not learned to be selfless. Instead, you learned to be obsessed with someone else's needs, but only one person's. True selflessness needs to be learned every day, without the reward of a romantic partner or appreciation. Perhaps a taste of selflessness while in love can help someone draw nearer to it, but it must be learned on its own.
Moving back to Lewis and blind love, he describes the transition from eros (romantic) to agape (unconditional) love. In agape love, what I would argue as real love, the partners stand side by side with their focus on a third good. I love how this idea is a development of Lewis' description of friendship, which he believes to be "the happiest and most fully human of all loves." In friendship, Lewis argues that the relationship "must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers." In friendship, two people walk side-by-side or shoulder-to-shoulder, pointed toward a third good, a commonality. In agape love, the dynamic is similar. Instead of two parties valuing each others' interests above all else, they value the good of the other above all else because of their focus on the third thing - God. For instance, someone who truly loves another will suffer the short-term discomfort of an argument or calling the other higher in kindness for the long term benefit of helping their relationship increase in virtue. In pursuing God and his ideal of love, we can truly choose the good of someone else. Side-by-side, partners on a journey can help each other reach the end destination.
When we move from eros to agape, love moves from a feeling to a choice. From blind infatuation to transparency.
Love moves from a feeling to a choice. From blind infatuation to transparency.
So on to my definition of love. And keep in mind, this is 100% a work in progress. If you have thoughts, arguments against my points, or any other ideas, feel free to email me and I'm planning to continue to update this article!
But roll with me; here's the idea:
When you are in love with someone, you know them. You know their faults, strengths, pet peeves, personality, and temperament. To love someone fully is to know everything about them but to choose to love them anyway.
Aristotle says that a friend is "another self," meaning that they make "you more aware of your own existence" and you know them deeply and care for them as you would care for yourself.
This means that the person in love sees themselves and the object of their love more clearly.
"Love is not blind, love sees."
Being in love in the sense of loving someone as "another self" means that you see yourself more clearly. Aristotle describes this as becoming more aware of your own existence. Plato describes this love by wondering,
What if man had eyes to see the true beauty-the divine beauty, I mean, pure and dear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human life-thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities, and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?" (Symposium).
Most notably, re-read the part on how in true love, one beholds beauty with the eye of the mind bringing forth realities and true virtue. Yes, I acknowledge this is the ideal, but that is the purpose of seeking a definition. What should being in love look like? Beyond the blinding appetites that taint the mind's perception of reality, Plato seems to argue that being in love is seeing beauty beyond the physical and obvious.
Someone in love sees the beauty that is reality in themselves and the one they love.
Moving into the second part of Aristotle's idea of the beloved beyond another "self," consider: how to reconcile the reality and beauty of the other? This requires loving unconditionally, for our expectation of beauty and virtue in love will never be met, but being "in love" in my opinion is knowing someone almost as completely as oneself and daily choosing to see the beauty in the one you are closest to despite knowing all their flaws.
You are in the best place to judge yourself, and so often we are too hard on ourselves for this reason. Because we know, even if our actions seem good, that maybe there was an internal struggle, a nuance not quite perfect in our handling of a situation.
In the same way, when you love someone you know them so well that you know their weakness, their internal struggles, insecurities, and exactly what makes them imperfect.
The loving part comes into play when, despite knowing all that, you choose to love them unconditionally. In that way, we attempt to love like God, who chooses to love us despite our obvious flaws.
God knows each of us through and through, better than you could ever know any person. And because of that, He is in the best place to judge us. He is not blind; He sees fully. However, DESPITE that, He died for each of us and loves us through and through.
In small ways, when we are in love, we have the opportunity to imitate God’s love. In marriage, you will come to know someone almost as well as you know yourself. It will be hard, unexpected, disappointing, fulfilling, and beautiful in many ways. As you come to know someone, you are embracing more and more responsibility for their joy and salvation. And in doing this, you take on a responsibility to love them as God loves you. Unconditionally.
True love is not blind. It does not overlook. True love asks to see someone completely and allows someone to trust fully because they know that you will love them through and through, as another self. It is not a safe investment, but it is a chance to make you aware of your own existence, more yourself than ever, and push you to love like Christ every single day.
Love is two parts. The first feeling comes like a rush, love at first sight, butterflies, infatuation, falling for someone. It's the spark that plants a desire to know and experience more of another. The second part comes once you decide to nurture this spark and it grows to a point where it can sustain itself. From there, it becomes a balance of choosing to love and being in love. The person you choose makes all the difference; when you choose the right one, it hardly feels like a choice at all.
"Condition." Etymonline. n.d., https://www.etymonline.com/word/condition.
Hayes, Jonathan. "Sexuality in the Bible." Catholic 365. August 2, 2016, https://www.catholic365.com/article/4843/sexuality-in-the-bible-knowing-your-spouse.html.
Yenor, Scott. "Marriage & Manliness in Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina.'" The Imaginitive Conservative. December 12, 2022. https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2022/12/marriage-manliness-tolstoy-anna-karenina-scott-yenor.html.