I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings, but except for a select few readers, I don’t love you.
When I first moved to Los Angeles many years ago, I noticed that people routinely said, “See you later,” instead of saying good-bye as they would in my native state. I quickly discovered that this was a meaningless phrase rather than a statement of intent. Over the last few years, it seems that “Love you” or “Luv ya” has become the closing statement to almost all conversations.
A certain unnamed young person I know was placing a food order over the phone and after hanging up realized that she had told the employee taking the order, “luv ya,” instead of goodbye. Now loving all humanity is a wonderful sentiment, but as a practical policy it is futile. If we start playing semantic games explaining that there are lots of types of love and different degrees of love, and we can love everyone, all we have done is render the word meaningless. There certainly are different types of love, but saying you love someone should partner with an action showing that love. I have friends who tell me they love the people of (fill in the blank with a suffering region of the world). They go on missions to orphanages in that country, give charity and remember the people there in their daily prayers. They have earned the right to use the word ‘love’. The high school junior who says ‘luv ya’ to her science lab partner as the class ends and then spends lunch hour making fun of that partner’s outfit, has not. I’m quite ready to have a little less talk of love and more of what used to be understood as common courtesy.
Love isn’t necessary for a world filled with more respect towards all others. We don’t need to love someone not to push in front of them or not to honk our horns if they take an extra two seconds to go on green. We can donate to charity without loving the beneficiaries and we can help someone pick up their dropped parcels simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Rather than seeking a world filled with more love, perhaps we need a world filled with more limited but more serious love, such as that between spouses or parents and children. My bond with my husband is exclusive, my attachment to my children is unique and relationships beyond those emanate in co-centric circles with decreasing degrees of affection and commitment. In those close relationships, the word love is nice, but it doesn’t substitute for actions. For relationships outside of that circle, civility and kindness would be ample.
When my in-laws left our house after a meal, my father-in-law used to thank me for each dish. He would mention the soup, the main course, the side dishes and the dessert instead of just complimenting the entire meal. He taught thousands of his students that saying thank you for everything is the same as saying thank you for nothing. Similarly, professing love to anyone and everyone strips it of all meaning.
See you later!