As I sit here and ponder how much I love my husband, it angers me to think of how often the words "I love you" are used either for manipulation or to ease one's own conscience. What many people don't seem to understand is that love is not words, love is actions. If you are not patient, you do not love. If you are not kind, you do not love. If you are selfish and only seek your own, you do not love. Now obviously, no one can love perfectly except God, but I'm not talking about those people who really try. Every day I try to love my husband but there are times I still get angry and say hurtful things. The difference is my actions all the rest of the time. If I'm ALWAYS angry and saying cruel things, than I do not love my husband. If I'm always thinking about myself and ignore the needs of my husband, than I don't love him. But (hopefully) he can see that I try to love him everyday. I go to work everyday so the weight of paying all the bills doesn't rest on him alone. I come home and make supper and do laundry and clean so he doesn't have to do it between his 1.5 jobs and school. I take care of him when he's sick. Now, I'm not trying to brag about how good I am (because there are days when I don't do all the things I should) but I know that if I don't do these things, I don't love my husband. If I don't show him through actions that I love him, than I don't love him.
So what about these other people? Well, think about cases of domestic abuse. In a lot of those cases, the abused women will finally go get help, and what do they say is the reason they stayed in an abusive situation so long? Most of the time, their story sounds like this: "Yeah, he'd hit me sometimes, especially when he was drunk and angry, but he'd always come back and say how sorry he was and that HE LOVED ME." And the woman would stay, sometimes because she really thought there was nothing she could do, but a lot of times because she really believed that he loved her and she didn't want to leave him. And you know what? He knew he could say those words and she'd stay, no matter how badly he treated her.
The other people of which I speak also use those words without meaning them but in a different way. They use them because they think that by saying "I love you", they can do whatever they want and it doesn't matter. That they can act in ways that are completely unloving but as long as those words are used, it excuses and even justifies their behavior... and eases their conscience.
Think of the situation where a girl is dating a guy, but then another guy catches her eye. She starts dating the second guy and then the first guy catches her. Her excuse for not telling him she was dating someone else is "I didn't want to tell you because I love you and I didn't want to hurt you." There's something inherently wrong with that. And inevitably, she'll part with "I love you and I always will." I'm sorry, but cheating, whether within marriage or not, is not love. But by saying it, it in her mind, excuses what she did and she can feel good about herself because, after all, she did it "out of love". A spouse that divorces the other but afterwards says "I love you; I guess I'll always love you." Yeah, whatever. It makes me angry when I see that because those people make a mockery of those of us who truly are trying to love another person.
The thing about saying and acting out "I love you" is, it's not necessarily supposed to make you feel good... it's supposed to make the other person feel good. A couple lines that could've been added to the above verses: "Love is work. Love is hard. Love is not words or feelings, but actions. Love is a decision that is made every single day. Love can only be lived out if we have the power of God's love in our life."
I'm not perfect, by any means, and there are others who are light years ahead of me in this area. But I know my love for my husband is genuine because I don't just write about it - I act it out every day, to the best of my ability. What about you?