In 7th grade I was obsessed with the song “Hey Stephen” by Taylor Swift. One day, I was bopping along at my Grama’s house singing the song, as 12-year-old Halle did. The chorus was all about how you can’t help it if you fall in love with a boy and you can’t help yourself.
My Grama looked over at me as I sang and she said, “Halle, you can always help yourself. Love is a choice.”
I’ll never forget it.
Of course, at the time I didn’t understand or even come close to appreciating her words of wisdom. I was 12. All I knew were crushes and feeling helpless. Love was a feeling, not an action or a choice. I knew so little about unconditional love. I certainly knew nothing about romantic love and how that could ever be a choice. I didn’t even know how the love that Christ asked me to show to others was a choice.
But that is a lesson I have learned over the years, especially this year. That love is a choice you have to wake up every morning and make.
You have to choose to love your parents who challenge you to do more with your life than you ever thought you could. You have to choose to love your roommate even when they are having a bad day. You have to choose to love your best friend even if you’re both too busy to catch up. You have to choose to love your professor even when they keep canceling on you. You have to choose to love your acquaintance even if things between you have been weird lately. You have to choose to love that boy even when he lets you down.
But you can just as easily choose not to love. Or what kind of love you give that person. You can choose to love more or less. You can choose to love them unconditionally or to let love go when you’re hurting. But love is your choice.
Now here is the tricky part, because God calls us to love our enemies. That love is a choice. But God never called our enemy to love us back. When we choose to love others we cannot expect them to return the favor. Even if it’s our friend and not our enemy. We have to pour out our hearts without expectation of reciprocity.
You can’t love with the expectation of that same love being poured back into you. When you make that choice, you do it because God first loved you. That is how we should love. When it comes to love, we flinch first. We start out with an accepting love and go from there, not expecting anything in return.
So, you were right Grama. Love is a choice. For me, for them. I decide every morning how I am going to treat others and the attitude I’m going to have. And the feelings can fade when you understand what it truly means to love someone else. And I can always help myself.