It’s probably the most sought after word in the English language. It has inspired sonnets, paintings, and innumerable grand gestures. Children don’t thrive without hearing it, and relationships grow stale when deprived of the fluttering feeling that it brings. But if love is the most profound feeling of all, can we really depend on one little word to tell the whole story?
The ancient Greeks, renowned for their logic, knew that the meaning of love couldn’t be confined to one word. They wisely used four. The Arabic language uses upwards of 15 and Sanskrit a whopping 96! English, notorious for its complexity and large vocabulary, has somehow only managed to maintain one word for love. This odd quirk of ours has led to a muddying of the linguistic waters. We say “I love French toast” one minute, and then say “I love you” to members of our immediate family the next. Throw a sarcastic, “Boy do I love sitting in traffic” into the mix, and you start to get a glimpse of the potentially confusing situation that English speakers are in.
Even when we say “love” in a situation where our meaning is clear, it can sometimes seem as if the word still lacks the necessary weight to describe how we really feel. Love may be an undeniably strong and deeply profound feeling, but it can’t stand alone. A word will lose its power if it is not described with sincerity and supported with actions. Just ask any happily married couple. According to a recent study from the University of Georgia, couples who regularly say “thank you” to each other generally feel more assured in their equality and are happier on the whole. What is love without gratitude, reassurance, forgiveness, and trust? It can only thrive with careful tending.
On Valentine’s Day, we will tell our friends, family, and partners that we love them. But this year, let’s strive to say what we really mean. By describing our feelings in more detail, we give the gift of confidence, encouragement, and strength. And who knows? We may get the pleasure of hearing exactly what love means to them in return.
Here are five ways to express to the important people in your life just how deep the roots of your love reach:
“I support you”
I’ll work hard to help you achieve your hopes and dreams. When you’ve fallen, I will pick you up. I’ll defend you when you’re right and forgive you when you’re wrong. You will never have to face challenges alone, and I will offer you all the physical and emotional support I can provide.
“You inspire me”
You set a powerful example for others. Your positive attitude is a guidepost and your personal strength is encouraging. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn from you so that I can pass that inspiration on to others.
“I’m proud of you”
I will be your biggest fan. We will celebrate your victories together, and I will help you learn from your mistakes with grace. I will cheer you on when you feel like the rest of the world is against you, and I’ll remind you of your strengths when you feel weak.
“You complement me”
You bring out my strengths and help soften my weaknesses. No challenge is too big if we face it as a team, and no goal is out of reach when we are moving in the same direction. When we work together we are unstoppable!
“I respect you”
You are your own person with a unique perspective, opinions, and feelings. I will value you for who you are in the moment, and not for who I think you should be. Your goals and aspirations are your own, and I will allow you the freedom to take the journey of discovering what they are.
From now on, try to avoid giving anyone in your life the opportunity to be compared to your feelings for French toast. When you’re searching for a way to tell somebody what they mean to you, really say it. Send it in a card, sing it out of tune, or write it on a note and put it in a lunchbox. However you tell them, do your best to be authentic. Your sincerity will say more than a single word ever could.
What was the most meaningful way somebody has described their love for you?
What are your ways to say I love you to people in your life?