By Richard A. Wiedenheft
It is one of the biggest lies of the 20th Century. It has been propagated through movies, books, music; through practically every media there is. It has become accepted as fact by countless millions, and it has brought them untold disappointment and misery!
What Is It?
It is the lie that romance is love. It is the lie that draws no distinction between attraction, sexual desire, infatuation, and real love. It is the lie that fails to distinguish between real love and illicit lust!
The media has so clouded our concepts that we talk of “love at first sight,” “falling in love,” being “in love,” and “making love” – all in the same breath. We do not differentiate one love from another in our language; and most people, especially young people, do not differentiate one love from another in their relationships. They have been brainwashed by the movie industry and popular songs and novels, which have created an image of fairy-tale romances and happy-ever-aftering – all in the name of love. Love has become a virtual God! But which love? Nobody seems to know!
And The Results?
Millions of young couples “fall in love” and marry without ever knowing what real love is, without ever having seen a real life example of the kind of marriage they are sure they are going to have. And when they discover that they do not have the Hollywood illusion of eternal romantic bliss, they are crushed with bitter disappointment. Frequently they divorce; sometimes they manage to negotiate an uneasy truce for the sake of the kids; and once in a while, they stumble onto the real thing and discover what love and marriage are all about.
So much misery, disappointment, and bitterness could be avoided if young people were taught the difference between attraction, romance, and real love.
What Is Attraction?
God put within each of us a basic attraction for people of the opposite sex in general and for certain individuals in particular. That natural pull, linked to sexual desire, is usually based on appearance – at least in the beginning; we are attracted to someone we consider beautiful, handsome, appealing, or shapely. But we can also be captivated by an individual’s personality, deeply impressed by his dedication, or drawn to his air of confidence or sense of humor. We can be attracted to the role a person plays (he is the star football player or an imposing officer of the law; she is a cheerleader or soloist in the choir).
Often, what starts out as physical attraction grows as we learn more about the person; but it can work the opposite way. When a beautiful woman opens her mouth and spues forth vile curses, she can suddenly become unattractive; a dashing officer of the law may seem very undesirable after he spends an entire evening bragging about his hot rods. That is just how superficial attraction can be!
Attraction is quite natural, it is normal, it is not wrong, per se, but it does have its limitations; here are some of them:
1) Attraction is not love. “Love at first sight” is really attraction at first sight.
2) It does not automatically cease after marriage. Other personalities, physical appearances, physiques, characteristics, and roles can still be quite appealing.
3) Attraction by itself is not sin, neither is being attractive yourself; it is a gift of God.
4) Attraction can lead to sin – in just one thought. Jesus said, “Bur I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, he hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,” (Matthew 5:28). He did not condemn looking, or noticing, or appreciating the God- given attributes of another person. But He did condemn lust.
Attraction is a very natural phenomenon and it can very easily lead to romance.
What Is Romance?
Another word for romance is infatuation. It involves giving in to attraction and becoming enamored with another person. What begins as attraction for a uniform or for a beautiful face can grow as the person and personality are revealed.
Romance can be a very beautiful and wonderful experience – provided the two people involved are:
(I) Mature enough to keep their feelings and emotions (their romance) in proper perspective, and
(II) Are single and eligible to marry.
However for someone who is too immature to control romance can spell disaster. And for a married person, extra-marital romance is adultery!
As wonderful as romance is, it is not love! In fact, romance can be quite selfish if it is not accompanied by real love. Statements like, “I feel so great when I’m with him” or “He’s such a wonderful person to be around” or “She really sends me” all point up the fact that romance tends to focus on the self.
Romance Has Other Shortcomings
The expression “love is blind” should be “romance is blind”: and indeed it is. For while real love has eyes wide open, the passion of romance tends to blind a person to the faults and humanness of the other. Her freckles and crooked teeth seem cute and attractive.
His preoccupation with his macho image is captivating. Shortcomings and problems, if recognized at all, are viewed very affectionately rather than realistically. Or they are shrugged off with “Oh, he will change after we are married.”
Romance is a wonderful experience and has an important place in human relationships, but like all emotional responses, it has its limitations:
1) Romance is based to a large degree on the newness of a relationship – the thrill of discovery, the excitement and security of companionship. As the newness wears off, so too does the flame of passion.
2) Romance can be largely self-centered.
3) Though romance between two mature, single people is certainly not wrong, it can easily lead to pre-marital sexual involvement which is wrong.
4) Romance is not love, and, by itself, it is no basis for marriage.
5) Romance can develop and grow into real love, which can be the foundation for marriage.
What Is Love?
Love is not concerned with self-gratification, personal feelings, and pleasures. Rather, it is a deep, outgoing concern for another human being. Love is not focused on self or how self feels. Rather, it is focused on the partner – concern for his feelings, for his well-being and happiness.
Romance says, “I want you” or “I have to have you.” Love says, “I want what is best for you,” or “I want you to have what you need,” or “I want you to be happy,” or “I want to devote my life to caring for you.” Love is not an emotion, though it may be accompanied by much emotion. Love is not romance, though it may grow out of and accompany romance. Love is not accidental – you cannot “fall” in love; it must grow.
l Corinthians 13 gives an excellent picture of what real love is all about – the kind of love that should be the basis for all marriages. Compare this description of love to the concept of love portrayed in modern songs and movies – the false concept that forms the foundation for so many marriages.
According to l Corinthians 13:
*Love is patient.
*Love is kind
*Love does not envy
*Love does not boast
*Love is not proud and guided by real love. Statements like,
* It is not rude
* It is not self-seeking
*It is not easily angered
*It keeps no record of wrongs
*Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth
* It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
* Love never fails.
This kind of love is a very tall order – a tremendous responsibility. It involves a deep abiding respect and concern for another person. It involves giving, sharing, doing without for the sake of another. It involves giving 100 per cent rather than taking for personal gratification and pleasure.
Real love is a far cry from attraction, romance, or infatuation. It is the only durable foundation for a marriage.
Unfortunately, so many marriages are based on the feelings of attraction and romance, nurtured by Holly- wood’s never-ending stream of “love” stories. And when the enchantment wears off, as it inevitably will, there is no real love to take its place. Starry-eyed young people become quickly disillusioned with their mates and often with life itself.
They say things like, “I do not love you anymore”. What they mean is, “I am not infatuated with you anymore”. What happened is that they discovered their mate is, after all, just a human being. Or they say, “I have fallen in love with somebody else”. What they mean is, “I am infatuated with someone else”.
What happened is they gave in to their attraction for someone else and they are still chasing the illusion the media put in their minds.
So it is off to the divorce courts and on to another romance, which will probably also be dashed when reality sets in.
If only the songs and movies taught people what real love is; if only young people could learn the limitations of attraction and romance – and the importance of love. Then they would have a decent shot at real happiness. They would be prepared to work at keeping romance alive in their marriage – by going out of their way to treat their mate like the special person he was when they “fell in love.” They would be able to quit chasing illusions and start enjoying the real passion, romance, and love that can be part of marriage as God intended it.
Richard A. Wiedenheft is Editor of The Sabbath Sentinel, a monthly magazine devoted to promoting the Biblical Sabbath and to fostering fellowship among Sabbath-keepers. A subscription is $10 per year in the U.S.; 12 in Canada and other countries. Address: The Sabbath Sentinel, R.D. I, Box 222, Fairview, Ok. 73737, U.S.A.
“PLEASANT WORDS ARE AS A HONEYCOMB, SWEET TO THE SOUL, AND HEALTH TO THE BONES.” PROVERBS 16:24