Stephen Covey tells a great story about the essence of love. On this particular day he had been presenting a series of talks about proactivity, which is, basically, the idea that “as human beings we are responsible for our lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.”
After his presentation, Covey was approached by a man who said, “Stephen, I like what you’re saying. But every situation is so different. Look at my marriage. I’m really worried. My wife and I just don’t have the same feelings for each other we used to have. I guess I just don’t love her anymore and she doesn’t love me. What can I do?”
“The feeling isn’t there anymore?” Covey asked.
“That’s right,” the man reaffirmed. “And we have three children we’re really concerned about. What do you suggest?”
“Love her,” Covey replied.
“I told you, the feeling just isn’t there anymore,” the man insisted.
“Love her,” Covey affirmed.
“You don’t understand. The feeling of love just isn’t there.”
“Then love her.” Covey continued. “If the feeling isn’t there, that’s a good reason to love her.”
“But how do you love when you don’t love?” the man said seemingly perplexed.
“My friend, ‘love’ is a verb. Love—the feeling—is a fruit of love, the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate her. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?”
I met Covey about a decade after he first told this story and he was wondering what happened to this man and his marriage.
Love is not a feeling. From when we are very young, through powerful mediums such as movies and music, we are conditioned to believe that love is a feeling. The result of this conditioning is that we allow our actions to be dictated by our feelings. Rather than asking ourselves whether a particular person is going to help us become our best self, we simply allow our feelings to take us wherever they will at any particular moment. And I don’t know whether you’ve noticed it, but feelings are one of the most inconsistent aspects of the human person.
Our feelings shouldn’t direct our actions and our lives. Our actions should be driven by our hopes and values; above all, they should be driven by our essential purpose to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.
People who are driven by feelings are dangerous. They are undisciplined, inconsistent, and unreliable. But people who are driven by their values and a clear understanding of their essential purpose are disciplined, consistent, and reliable.
So if you want to be surrounded by people who are inconsistent and unreliable, choose your friends, your colleagues, your employees, and your significant other on the basis of feelings. But if you want to be surrounded by people who are consistent and reliable, choose friends, colleagues, employees, and a significant other who live value-driven lives—they will help you become the-best-version-of-yourself.
Love is a choice, not a feeling. Feelings come and go, and if we choose to base our most important relationships on how we feel at any moment, we are in for a rough and rocky journey. Love is a verb, not a noun. Love is something we do, not something that happens to us.
Watch the video!