Love or infatuation?

   I am always surprised at what a false idea prevails even among the Christians about what infatuation is and what love is. It may be a result of romances, soap operas, romantic films, magazines etc. It has just struck me that a significant part of this disinformation can be put down also to poets. People mix love up with infatuation, which is why I have decided to write a brief explanatory essay.

   I start with the most important thing – love is not a feeling! And if it hasn’t discouraged you or, if it has annoyed you sufficiently enough, go on reading…


   Love has very little to do with infatuation. When you ask about infatuation, you must ask: “What is infatuation?”


   Yes, right. Infatuation is a feeling. Those strange feelings can be put down to a chemical reaction (there is a substance involved, whose name I don’t remember anymore). It sounds ludicrous but many of the symptoms are like the symptoms of flue. :-) People infatuated with somebody, usually of opposite sex, begin to act rather foolishly. They can’t help it. Neither a shower nor rubbing with a terry towel is of any use. To think that it is not a good idea, that it could spoil a marriage etc. doesn’t help either. It is difficult to “get out of infatuation” and return to a reasonable way of thinking. On one hand, infatuated people experience feelings of happiness (especially if their “enthusiasm” is reciprocated), on the other hand, they cannot sleep or concentrate on anything – simply, there is a problem. As if the best imaginable qualities of theirs have come to surface. They are able to do anything for their darling, to sacrifice themselves, to worship the very ground she or he walks, to overcome otherwise “insurmountable” obstacles, to discontinue the pursuit of their career, to offer to their darling everything they have…


   It seems so selfless and wonderful. Nevertheless there is a snag. Of course, nobody speaks about it, but the fact is that it is not so selfless as it looks like at first sight. People do say sincerely: “I’ll do anything for you, I will be pampering you, cherishing you, supporting you, encouraging you, you will always be in the first place in my life!” The first problem is the last thing mentioned above – the first place. I am sorry, but the first place must never belong to anybody else than our heavenly Father. However, how often it is occupied by men and women of our lives! :-(


   Another problem of infatuation is that, whether we realize it or not, those promises include an implicit condition: “…if you love me, too!”  If one’s infatuation isn’t reciprocated for a long time, it changes into despair and often into the opposite feeling, hatred.


   Another problem of infatuation is uncritical acceptance. You don’t see a slightest blemish on the object of your infatuation or you brush it aside as something unimportant. Your intended is simply perfect as if born exactly for you, everything is marvellous. Even if your infatuation lasts beyond your wedding day, it won’t last forever, a time is bound to come when the scales fall from your eyes. Then you may be unpleasantly surprised by the flaws you have never seen before on your spouse. The traits of their character and their behaviour that once seemed so charming are becoming unbearable suddenly. Hormones have settled down, the infatuation has disappeared - and what’s the next step?


   However, I don’t intend to substitute a marriage counsellor here. I want to stick to the point, i.e. the difference between love and infatuation. As you could see, infatuation is a feeling we can hardly control or opt for; moreover, it deprives us of the power of good judgement - especially in relation to the object of our infatuation. Let’s look at what love is.


   No sooner have I started than I have made a mistake. If you ask about love, you cannot ask “What is love?”, rather “What is love like?” As a matter of fact, love isn’t a feeling. Love is an attitude, love is a matter of decision! Hardly anybody would be able to express it better than the apostle Paul in his first letter to Corinth:

1  Corinthians 13, 4-8 (ASV): Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Love never faileth:


   Can you see now why God can command us to love? Because we are able to decide to do so – we can decide to love. We can decide to do the best for others even though we see their shortcomings and even though they don’t repay the same way. We cannot decide to be infatuated, but we can decide to love. Let’s not mix up the notions! If you are infatuated with somebody, don’t say you love them! If we love, it can be seen in our attitudes and deeds – the Paul’s description can serve us as a perfect guideline.

 

Libor Diviš - author of this article and this website

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