Before You Say “I Love You”

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I’ve been meaning to write about this for almost a year. Dedicated to my fabulous cheerleader of a sister, Rwan, who patiently allows me to spill all my thoughts beforehand to her so that I can actually write something coherent.

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“Being sappy isn’t love.  Telling someone you love them doesn’t mean that you do.” [1]

Let’s talk about love.

 crumbling into

  • I am Palestinian; thus almost by default, I love dabka. The adrenaline, the synchronized choreography, the artistically-expressed resistance, all contribute to my love (as opposed to simple appreciation) of dabka.

I feel love to the ancestor who invented dabka. There is nothing I can do about this love, no way to express it, except through dance and poetry. My name is Aya, and I love dabka.

 

  • I am a woman of God under construction, and I love sunrises. The hope that the dawn brought, His Glory to behold, punctuating the time of the morning prayer, all contribute to my love (rather than neutral observation) of sunrises.

I feel a closeness and silent gratitude in my chest to the Creator of the sunrise. There is nothing I can do about this love, no way to express it, but to internalize its wonder and evaluate the level of sincerity in my deeds. My name is Aya, and I love sunrises.

 

Above are only a couple of examples of things I love. In both cases, this love forces me to act out to best express these joyful feelings. I can’t love dabka the way I do without participating in it, and I can’t love sunrises the way I do without contemplation on how this dazzling phenomenon could bring me closer to my Lord.

 

It therefore goes without saying that I can’t love a human being without actually loving.

 

(Say what?) No, you read it correctly; there were no typos. Literally,

I can’t love a human being without actually loving.

Photography by Aya Salah.

 

Here, pay attention to this:

 

I cry.

   I laugh.

      I smile.

         I breathe.

                 I jump.

                      I love.

 

What do all those statements have in common? They all begin with “I” and end with a verb.

 

A VERB. Did you know LOVE is a VERB?

A verb is an action, something you do… not just something you feel.

“It’s time that we changed the conversation about love.  It’s time that we redefine it.” [1]

Now, love can be used as an emotion, of course, yes (who am I to say otherwise). Love can be something felt within your heart, an instinctive compassionate knowledge you have about something or someone else.

  • Sure, you feel love for your mother. But is feeling it enough? Can you honestly say you love your mother if your inner love is never translated to exterior, physical acts of love? Do you constantly kiss your mother’s cheek, do the dishes without being asked, share intimate stories with her, surprise her with spontaneous calls while you’re on break at work – in other words, while no one doubts you feel love for your mother… are you acting on this love? Are you being loving? Have you turned the emotion into a verb?

Until you do, you should never say “I love you.” Actions speak louder than words.

The love you have inside is of no value until it’s expressed outside. The best time to express it is when one’s actions have already declared it and the receiver of that sweet phrase is delighted, and not necessarily stunned into perplexed shock, to hear it.

 

Now on behalf of the many girls I know who are sick and tired of being emotionally manipulated because they hold that phrase in such high esteem… to the gentlemen on the metros or university hallways, that want to tell a girl “I love you” –

DON’T.

 

You fool yourself before you lie to her. Because you don’t love her.

  • Now perhaps you are interested to know her better; “I am interested to get to know you” –
  • Maybe you are curious about her hopes and dreams, with all genuine intentions; “I would love to talk about this over some coffee” –
  • You may even find her so beautiful that it’s killing you to find out if that beauty resonates in her heart and intellect as well…

That is normal, that is wonderful, and that is heartwarming. It is not blameworthy to feel as though you are starting to “fall in love”. But that is only the emotional aspect of it; you have not lived the verb of loving, and therefore, by default, you do not ‘love’ her.

So don’t say “I love you” when you don’t even know her. You can love strangers for the sake of God, but do you want to live with them all under the same roof for the rest of your life? Please don’t be rash.

We live in a world where “I love you” completes its meaning at the emotion. As a result, we have a bunch of adults in dysfunctional relationships because the magical feeling has worn off and has been unable to be renewed because no one is acting the love out. Love is a feeling that, once gone, cannot be recaptured. Oh, is it really?

Proactive people make love a verb. Love is something you do, the sacrifices you make, the giving of self… Love is a value that is actualized through loving actions. Proactive people subordinate feelings to values. Love, the feeling, can be recaptured.” [2]

 

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I cannot tell who will be reading this, and thus cannot anticipate whether you are currently nodding your head in agreement, or feeling like you are repeatedly getting slapped in the face. If you are the latter, don’t worry; you’re not the only one who’s been living a lie.

Now you’re probably wondering: when do you say “I love you”? I mean, it is kind of a big deal in our modern world. Every girl and every boy, every man and every woman, wants someone to say it to them; it’s only human nature. The problem is, people are freely throwing that phrase around left and right, and we’re losing the ability to actually understand what love even means.

 

  • I am a Muslim, and I love the Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him). His courage, unshakeable belief and heartmelting mercy to God’s creation, all contribute to my love (love as a feeling) for him. But I begin to doubt this love if I don’t find ways to express it (love as a verb).

 

Am I being a cold-hearted unemotional robot about all this? On the contrary; my heart is often quite a complicated mess and tends to fight to overpower the rational part of me. Which is why, more and more, I am learning to use my emotions to think, and not let the emotions do the thinking for me. 

So when DO you say “I love you”?

 

You don’t… yet.

Simply, it’s all about timing. Until your actions express it as a foreshadowing of the words, one should not be obliged to hear it. And even when you say the words, they won’t mean a thing if you don’t keep expressing it.

 

Actions speak louder than words. We need to learn to define love as a verb and show love to our friends, family, neighbors, and fellow brothers and sisters in humanity. You want love and peace for all, do you? Then be loving and peaceful! Turn the values you believe in into a part of who you are.

 

“Learning to love takes practice and time, especially in an era that focuses so intensely on romantic love.” [3]

Practice makes perfect. Loving is a process, not a destination.

It is only then that “I love you” will have meaning again.

Photograph by Aya Salah.

And al-Wadud (the All-Loving) knows best.

-A.S.

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REFERENCES:

[1] –  Article: I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married (Pop Chassid)

[2] – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, p.80

[3] –  Initiating & Upholding an Islamic Marriage (Hedaya Hartford), p.29

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