Part of what makes teenagers so complex is our emotions. When we’re young kids, we feel pretty much three things: happy, sad, and angry.
And then by the time we’re twelve or thirteen things really start to change – and we feel things like infatuation (which we can often confuse with love) and deeper emotions like stress and anxiety that confuse us so much, especially as young teens.
Like most people my age, I started noticing myself and others more, and was curious about boys, crushes, dating, and true love.
Dearest Twelve-Year-Old Me, no, a simple, silly, confusing infatuation with someone is not like love at all. But what is love? I badly wanted to know.
So if you’re a younger teen like I was, or you’re an older teen like I am now, or even if you’re an adult, here’s a list of things I wish someone told me when my emotions started to grow up on me.
// crushing isn’t bad, dating isn’t bad, marriage isn’t bad – idolizing is where it gets dangerous. don’t give your heart away so young.
// stop shipping* yourself and start living well – if you want to know if you know what love is like, start serving others.
(*for all who don’t know, shipping is basically approving of a relationship and fighting for it, often one that hasn’t begun yet.)
// if you haven’t experienced God’s love, you won’t fully be able to love someone else; cultivate your relationship with God above all else. if you aren’t satisfied with your relationship with God because of Christ, you’ll never find happiness within a human relationship.
// you are worth so much more than just what you do.
// develop what you truly like, not what you think you like because your crush likes it – be the person that only you can be. don’t worry so much about what others think of you.
// if the depth of your “love” stops after infatuation, it isn’t real love – true love is promised on sacrifice.
// true love is putting others’ needs above its own constantly.
// get on your hands and knees and start loving and serving your family; that mundane, day-to-day love will be what you bring into your new family every day.
// don’t let your feelings of infatuation control your thought life – your love life will happen soon enough without you over-analyzing and fantasizing over all those “cute” people.
// things might be awkward around people of the opposite gender, but it’s totally fine – you don’t need to worry about romance now. you honestly don’t.
// love is patient – don’t be afraid to wait for the right thing to come together.
// love is kind – trust me, rebellious, bitter, and rough seriously shouldn’t be attractive.
// love does not envy – jealousy will ruin your joy; don’t fall for that trap.
// love does not boast – humility is such an attractive quality to have, and it shows others that you really are who you appear to be.
// love is not proud – do your best and work your hardest, but don’t let that define you or how you assume others perceive you; acquire a humble spirit.
// love is not rude – if you have to offend people to get their attention, please…don’t.
// love is not self-seeking – real love isn’t about just getting your own needs met, it’s about meeting others’ needs.
// love is not easily angered – if you can’t be patient with others’ offenses against you, you won’t be patient with the person you’re living with the rest of your life. it’ll get hard.
// love keeps no record of wrongs – it’s so important to learn to let things go and not let them turn into grudges that fester in your heart.
// love does not delight in evil – when you get to know God’s heart, you’ll see that evil really is evil, and God hates it, because God is the ultimate picture of love.
// love rejoices with the truth – it’s not easy to forgive others when they hurt you, but it’s so much better to gracefully accept the truth than to be lied to.
// love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres – love is more than an emotion; it’s a choice you’ll make every day of your life, to love the person/family you’ve committed to. please don’t take that lightly. it isn’t a game.
// love never fails – remember where love comes from: it comes from God, who never fails. you won’t ever be perfect, but with God’s Spirit empowering you, you can learn to love as He does.
// human love is ultimately a picture of Christ and the Church – it’s sacrifice, forgiveness, and everyday grace.
// modesty and purity are things to cherish, because they reveal dignity and humility.
// you are a beautiful, whole, person, and if you think you need someone to be your “other half,” you’re gonna be wandering around for a very long time.
// marriage is so much more than roses and butterflies and kisses – examine your heart and your motives before hopping into a lifelong commitment.
To be honest with you, I could go on for weeks about this. I could write so much about my naïve, eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year-old selves.
But for today, remember what love is. God is love, and our love is simply a representation of that.
I’m not married, I’m not dating, and I’m not even close to ready for a lifelong commitment to another person. But these truths stand regardless.
Love is sacrifice.
And while it’s not always glorious or glamorous, it can be so worth it when we see it in the right light. When we see the beauty of what true love is.
See, it doesn’t originate from some nice person who’ll sweep you off your feet and vow to make you the happiest human alive. The root of our love is the incredible sacrifice of Jesus, who gave Himself up fully for His Bride (us, the Church).
I’m not going to give you a talk about dating vs. courtship, or what a good age to pursue a relationship is, or what good relational boundaries are. Plenty of other books and articles can tell you those things.
But if you take one thing with you out of the twenty-seven things I listed, please, remember this.
Love is the giving of your soul to another person, and something to be held in high value. It’s not frivolous, it’s expensive. And that is what makes it worth it. Just as Jesus loved us, so we too are to love others – by serving.