On Valentine’s Day the culture focuses on the idealized nature of romantic love, which is surely a positive counterpoint to the usual media fodder of fifty shades of betrayal and breakup. The hearts and flowers, though, emphasize love as a feeling instead of love as an action. It’s more important to¬†choose¬†love, I think, than to feel love.

I heard the term “choosing love” at a professional conference over Valentine’s weekend (yes, really). Dr. Pat Love, an acclaimed therapist, speaker and author, conducted a keynote session by that title, and I was captured by the spiritual truth of the concept. Dr. Love calls it “courageous” to choose love, which is exactly what is often required.

Several times since her presentation I’ve seen people choose actions of love that caught my attention. Choosing love means the colleagues who had a professional disagreement part ways with mutual respect and public expressions of support. It’s telling the truth about how someone’s actions have impacted you, and sharing that perspective without bitterness or rancor.

The white haired couple who clung to each other as they shuffled down the long airport corridor had clearly chosen love for longer than many of us have been alive. I watched him shoulder her bag and take her elbow as they stepped onto the escalator. Then they giggled together when a child darted around them and a dad offered an apology. “We had young children once,” she smiled.

On a long flight home I watched a patient mom traveling alone juggle her attention between three children who looked to range in age from a lap baby to around five. It takes courage and commitment for a parent to choose loving actions toward a cranky child when every exhausted parental fiber wants to scream in frustration.

It’s choosing love for one friend to offer another a shoulder to cry on and an assurance that her pain matters and she won’t have to endure it alone. It’s love that sends an adult child to the nursing home on a holiday to hug the father who will not remember his visit. Choosing love is what propels my husband to go with me to set up for a workshop during an ice storm that kept everyone else away.

Choosing love, as opposed to simply feeling love, usually costs you something. In our Christian viewpoint as Valentine’s Day yields to Lent, it was love that led a Savior to the ultimate sacrificial choice.

How can you choose love today?

Marnie C. Ferree