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Three Little Words

They’re just three little words but they just might be the three most powerful words in the English language. These three words have been responsible for joy and sorrow, peace and war, life and death and sometimes all of the above at once!

They are also the hardest to say for many of us. Some go through our entire lives without saying them, at least in a meaningful way. In addition to being the most powerful words in the English language, you see, they are also the most abused words in the language.

I’m talking about “I love you.” These are words most of us long to hear, especially from the right people but they are also words that can mean a lot even coming from someone we’re not romantically involved with.

The Greeks, perhaps the wisest of all civilizations, had literally dozens of words for love, ranging from romantic love to parental love to sibling love to spiritual love to platonic love – in fact, platonic is based on the Greek word for love between friends which has come to imply a non-sexual relationship. The English language never developed those distinctions; as a result we are far more imprecise about how we use the words.

One can love ice cream, their new car, or their cats. One will very rarely be in love with those things, except for maybe their cats and even then in very twisted situations. One can love their friends and say it often; others prefer to use those words only for people they are in love with. They prefer to accord the words more power, the power they should naturally be accorded.

I can’t really argue with that; the dilution of those words we get from applying them to so many other types of love is really a lack in the English language and not with ourselves. Still, until a better word is invented to convey those feelings (platonic sounds so sterile), we have to muck about with what we have.

I tend to be fairly affectionate and I use the word “love” in as many iterations as I can. For my wife, “I love you” is a daily occurrence, and not just once a day either. Da Queen is the one I love most; it only makes sense that she hears the words as often as I can say them to her. I also make sure I only say them when I feel it, which is most of the time (sure there are times when I get annoyed with her, few and far between as they might be). It’s important to me that she knows that what I feel for her is genuine.

I also tell my closest friends that I love them, and while the meaning is different, it is still an important issue for me. I think that those whose lives touch you should be made aware that they hold an important place in your heart, and the way I do it is to use those three words. When I hear them said to me, I don’t assume that it means that they wish to be romantically involved; I take it as an expression of affection and a means of informing me that I mean something special to them. When I hear it (or read it in an e-mail or message), I take it seriously and respect the emotion. I don’t look at it as a declaration of sexual desire because that cheapens the emotion behind it. Just because I love you doesn’t mean I want to sleep with you after all.

What it does mean is that you are valued, and I feel fondly about you. It means you contribute to my well-being and that you are an important component in my life. It means I wish only happiness and success to you, and that when I do think of you (which is most likely a regular occurrence) it is with great affection.

It means I miss you when you’re not around, and I’m always happy to see you and chat with you. Given my nature, it also means I enjoy flirting with you and otherwise making you feel good about yourself, which is a way of returning the way you make me feel about myself.

I think we don’t express those feelings nearly often enough, especially in America. We get far too wrapped up in the sexual part of love in many ways. We have come to equate the two and as most of us know, they aren’t always the same. In fact, they rarely are.  Sex can be a means of expressing love, but it is also a means of expressing a physical need. It’s like eating when your stomach growls; you’re satisfying a physical urge. Love, even the love of friends, satisfies something far more complex.

Love is something we work at. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t simple. Even for friends; love means listening even when you don’t feel like talking. It means accepting the things that annoy you and toning down as much as possible the things that annoy them. It means being there when you’d rather be somewhere else. It’s learning to be leaned on without falling, and to be able to lean when you need to.

Love is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It’s asking the tough questions and trusting that the answers are honest. It’s answering honestly when the tough questions are asked of you and of being honest with your feelings and your opinions, no matter how painful. It’s accepting your relationship within the parameters that are mutually agreeable to your both and not crossing those lines. It’s about forgiving transgressions and allowing yourself to be forgiven.

All of this is emotionally hard work, and this is just for the kind of close friendship that inspires you to say “I love you” to a friend. Casual friendships are much easier and much more common but they tend to evaporate quickly. Close, lifelong friendships require an investment of your heart and that’s not an easy thing for some of us.

We need love, all of us. Love validates who we are, allows us to feel connected to the world. We need love like we need oxygen, water and food. Perhaps we don’t die without love, but our lives hold less meaning, have less color and spice to it. I’m not talking about just romantic love here; I’m talking about all kinds of love, the love we get from our pets, our friends, our family. Love sustains us as much as our daily bread does, and in some ways more profoundly.

It is our job to take our love and spread it around to as many as we can. The more love we send out, the more we get back. It’s a simple equation but it is also a fact. Allowing ourselves to love others and be loved by others is one of the greatest joys of being human. It’s a shame so many shut themselves out of that joy over a matter of semantics.

So if someone is really important to them, don’t just say “you’re important to me.” Use those three powerful words. You never know what they will mean to someone…and how they might be a life preserver without you even knowing it. I know that in my time, I’ve hung onto those three words for dear life and wouldn’t be here without them. If that isn’t power, I don’t know what is.


One Response

  1. heey this is lovely and so true, beautifully written, and well explained, I love you, does hold incredible power.

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