What Is Love?

A unique definition from Barbara Fredrickson:

Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presents scientific evidence to argue that love is not what we think it is. It is not a long-lasting, continually present emotion that sustains a marriage; it is not the yearning and passion that characterizes young love; and it is not the blood-tie of kinship.

Rather, it is what she calls a “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” She means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person—any other person—whom you happen to connect with in the course of your day. You can experience these micro-moments with your romantic partner, child, or close friend. But you can also fall in love, however momentarily, with less likely candidates, like a stranger on the street, a colleague at work, or an attendant at a grocery store.

Relatedly, Nick Olson critiques the notion that love “can be whittled down to the observable moment in which we feel good or when we feel love’s resonance,” and brings Christian theology to bear on the matter:

Ironically, it’s this sort of narrow definition of love which often leads to – and embellishes – our loneliness.

When love’s definition derives from a singular focus on felt moments of happiness, we begin to selfishly seek them out like a high, and this sort of self-absorption perpetuates loneliness. Instead, love is better found in the purposeful gestures that occasion those emotions. We can enjoy the moments of feeling loved for they are part of love’s equation, but, foremost, these feelings ought to inspire a love qualified by gratitude, and then the desire for reciprocation. If love is not only facilitated and occasioned but embodied by persons – an all-encompassing reality to inhabit – then its expressions only make sense if there is a baseline, loving purpose. This purpose finds itself in the Person who is love – not the abstract idea of love. This is the hope found in embracing Christ – love incarnate – who is eternally loving and loved as the second Person in the Trinitarian landscape.