Defining Love

Posted by on Mar 29, 2014 in Articles | 5 comments

Love:  (Merriam-Webster definition) (1) :  strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (parental love for a child) (2) :  attraction based on sexual desire (3) :  affection based on admiration, benevolence or common interests (love for his old schoolmates) (4) unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as the fatherly concern of God for humankind or brotherly concern for others


A few weeks ago, my young author-friend, Alyshia Hull, organized a small, informal dinner at a local restaurant for a few authors in our area.  Alyshia is sixteen and has already written and self-published two novels.  As they are young adult novels, I haven’t read either of them, but I treasure Alyshia.  I’ve done several signings with her and have found her to be a sweet, bright young lady with a promising future.  I accepted the invitation and looked forward to our evening.  Alyshia’s mother, Melissa, is very supportive of her daughter and came to the dinner.  Two other authors from our area, Lisa Buske and Aimee Lee, along with their teen-aged daughters, came as well.  I’ve done a couple of book signings with Lisa and Aimee, briefly met their daughters at one of our events, but prior to our dinner, I didn’t know them very well.  From the start of the evening, our table was filled with laughter, some light author talk, and excitement as the girls talked about their upcoming semi-formal dance.


Aimee’s daughter, Elizabeth, is a special needs child.  She is seventeen, very sweet and was the joy of my evening.  I discovered that we share a love for Mickey Mouse (who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse?), pretty necklaces and cheese pizza.  She had her tablet with her and was showing me the pictures of her Mickey Mouse PJ’s, her dog, and the pretty dress she wore to her dance when I overheard Lisa’s daughter, Mary, say “I asked him to define love without quoting the Bible.  He couldn’t do it.”  My attention was quickly diverted to Mary.


My first impulse, since the Biblical description was off-limits, was to define love – give her the “Webster’s dictionary” sort of definition, or to offer the biological basis, complete with the neurochemistry – serotonin, oxytocin, etc. triggered in the brain.  I opted to keep my mouth shut, however, remembering from my own teen years that my choice of response would have had Mary thinking “Yep.  Typical old person.”  I let the statement pass and spent the rest of our time together laughing with my friends and getting to know everyone better.  Mary’s statement has remained with me, however.  I’ve carried those words with me for the last two weeks.


I’ve been in “hyper-love-observing-overdrive,” so to speak, witnessing love manifest itself in different ways:


A long-time friend of mine died in his sleep on March 13th at the age of 47.  It was a shock to his friends and family alike.  The memories, photos, and messages of support for his grieving wife that were posted on his Facebook page, even posts from people who knew the friend but not his wife, were overwhelming, their love pouring out on the page.


Last week, while visiting a nursing home, my husband bumped into a friend whose wife, an Alzheimer’s patient, is a resident.  This man visits his wife daily, reads to her, feeds her, takes her out to sit in the sun – despite her not knowing who he is anymore or remembering that he’s been there.  His love for her keeps him coming back, day after day.


The news shared a story of a 9 year-old girl who shaved her head to support her best friend, a cancer patient who’d lost hair during chemo.  The girl said she did it because she didn’t want her friend to be alone.  Her love for her friend was greater than her fear of ridicule from her school mates.


Story after story caught my attention.


I’ve also looked back on our dinner, reflecting on the events of the evening.  We had a wonderful time getting to know each other as people, not just as authors or family members of authors.  We laughed, joked, shared stories.  What has stuck out most from the evening is Mary.  She loves to laugh, gets excited and vocal.  She is a very intelligent, determined young lady.  She is also very compassionate and understanding.


Over the course of our evening, Elizabeth told me several times that Mary is her “BFF” and loves her “this much,” stretching her arms as wide as she could to show the length of her love for her friend.  At one point, she jumped up from her chair, ran around to where Mary was sitting, and threw her arms around her friend.  “I love Mary so much!” she exclaimed, squeezing Mary tightly in her arms from behind Mary’s chair.  Mary smiled, rubbed Elizabeth’s arms and glanced my way.  Most teenagers I’ve known would be embarrassed by a friend’s public expression of affection, and we live in a world with little tolerance for people who aren’t like us.  We have this tendency to keep our distance, move to the other side of the room, or completely ignore anyone who doesn’t fit into our mold.  Not Mary.  She showed a genuine affection and patience for her friend.


“Define love without quoting the Bible.” – Webster’s dictionary gives a language definition.  Science offers a biological and psychological definition.  But genuine love is Biblical love.  True love cannot be defined any other way.  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails…” I Corinthians 13:4-8a, and “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13


“Love is patient, love is kind…”  Biblical definition?  Yes.  But, it is also Mary’s unspoken definition – her demonstration of the affection and compassion for a friend.  That, Mary, is the real definition of love.


  1. Eileen,

    As I came over to read your blog I expected to see notes about the laughter and friendship shared and planted during our author dinner. I didn’t expect such a beautiful expression of love, for a teen, my daughter. Thank you so much!

    You modeled love to her, thank you. It was a great evening and I’m blessed to know you all. Thankful for the opportunity to get to know everyone better – Miss Alyshia, thank you for organizing the dinner. It was more than about food and writing, it is life.

    Thanks again!
    Lisa M Buske

    • Lisa,

      Thanks for coming over. I’m so glad you were touched by the article. It is an honor and blessing to know you and for the opportunity to witness the sweet devotion of your daughter. She is an example for us all!


  2. Fantastic story Eileen and thanks for sharing. From a family with a special needs child and one who is not able to describe love in a Biblical or even a traditional sense, I’d agree that demonstration is the key…

  3. Love knows no boundaries and has no limits. The girls at that dinner, while all different in their own ways, each bring something unique and special to this world. Collectively, they exude the true meaning if loving one another.

    Thank you Eileen!

  4. Thank you , I’m very touched by your thoughts and your compassion. It was great to get to know you.

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