‘I love you’. I hate it. Not love, but the phrase. I hear it so often. It’s used so frequently it’s virtually meaningless. A phrase used to fill the gap, make the hearer feel good. But real love is fundamental to a good life. What can we do about the phrase?
Degrading the Language
Part of the problem with the phrase ‘I love you’ is that it represents just a small – but very important – part of the general degradation of language. The use of increasingly superlative words for ordinary actions. ‘Amazing’, ‘fabulous’, ‘fantastic’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘great’, ‘the best’ and so on. These words are used endlessly each day. ‘What an amazing cup of coffee’. ‘You cooked a meal. Fantastic.’
Garrison Keilor, the great American storyteller, ended his weekly story from Lake Wobegon with ‘…and all the children are above average’. It used to be a joke, but now it seems all the children – and everyone – is apparently above average on almost everything. Wow, isn’t that fantastic! Unbelievable. Well, actually, it is unbelievable. It’s simply not possible mathematically.
And so ‘like’ has been replaced with ‘love’, increasingly followed by XXs and now by several emojis. Everyone ‘loves’ everybody they know. ‘Admire’, ‘respect’ and similar words have gone. But in reality, this (respect, like, admire) is what we feel for most of the people we claim to ‘love’. Similarly, ‘best wishes’ and ‘sincerely’ have gone from birthday and celebration cards and FB (actually they never even reached FB!) to be replaced by ‘love.
What’s wrong with ‘love’? It’s fake news.
But isn’t ‘love’ positive? Isn’t positive good? How could I hate this wonderful phrase ‘I love you’?
What’s wrong is that it is an example of fake news. I’ve always been a person who tries to tell the truth, to say it how it is, to call it as I see it. And I don’t see ‘love’ everywhere, I don’t feel ‘love’ for everything, everyone I know. I want to reserve this very special phrase for very special people in my life, for very special situations.
People say ‘But you must love everyone in your family? Well, actually, no I don’t! Some I love, some I like, some I’m neutral towards and some I actually don’t like’. And, if you are honest, this is almost certainly how you feel about your family. (I blogged much earlier on preferring friends over family.)
Actually, I use ‘love’ more now than I used to. Isn’t this contradictory? No, its not. I’ve actually felt ‘love’ for a lot of my friends, but been afraid to express it, for all the reasons above. Now I go out of my way to use ‘love’ more, but only for those for whom I mean it. Sometimes it feels odd, especially when sending ‘love’ to a male friend, or an attractive female friend. In this respect, I agree that there should be more love in the world. We could certainly do with more making love and less (or zero) making war in this world. What I don’t agree with is expressing love where it isn’t meant. Which seems to be most of the time.
So, dear readers, I thank you for reading my blog. Some of you I may indeed ‘love’. Some I may ‘respect’, ‘admire’ or ‘like’. Some I don’t even know and I might not even like you…but thanks for reading and I hope the blog continues to be thought-provoking. Perhaps you will rethink your use of the word ‘love’
and perhaps we can recapture the wonderful value of this simple, but so powerful, word.