Love is a word with no true synonym. Words such as affection and caring come close, but nothing exists in the English language to replace it. There is only one, ‘I love you.’ So what is love? Bell Hooks borrows Scott Peck’s definition of love early in her memoir, All About Love, as, “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love” (5). Love is a choice. Mainstream Hollywood would like its viewers to have the opposite opinion. The films targeted at women, both young and old, fling the old cliché of destiny and fate when concerning two lovers. The belief that it is more romantic to be destined for someone leads to higher ticket sales in the box office and the reality of love is left at home, at best. While we each have our own opinions on love, I think we learn the act of love as a child. Hooks writes that “we learn about love in childhood. Whether our homes are happy or troubled, our families functional or dysfunctional, it’s the original school of love” (17). Her belief is firmly planted that our outlook of life and love are shaped in childhood. It is an age of learning and lessons. It can be a time of hard choices and bitter tears or care free laughter and endless summer days. The environment that a child grows up in shapes his or her views of them self which later on will affect their behavior and attitude in a relationship. In this critical time, a child can either be built up to become a healthy well adjusted adult or he/she can be torn down and develop into an insecure, at times bitter, adult. Hooks continues, “In functional families individuals face conflict, contradictions, times of unhappiness, and suffering just like dysfunctional families do; the difference lies in how these issues are confronted and resolved, in how everyone copes in moments of crisis. Healthy families resolve conflict without coercion, shaming, or violence. Love and abuse cannot coexist” (Hooks 211). It is important that we make the distinction between what is love and what is not.
Love is not violence. While negative forces work against love, the positive forces are love. Love is healing, caring, service, compassion, forgiveness, trust, nonviolence, hope, and peace. 1st Corinthians takes this further, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.....It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” It is the positive constructive forces of life that make up this complex notion of love.