Recognizing Real Love Part 1 of 2

Table of contents for Recognizing Real Love

  1. Recognizing Real Love Part 1 of 2
  2. Recognizing Real Love Part 2

Reading Level: Impassioned

Recognizing real love can empower you to bring about needed emotional, physical, and spiritual healing. It enables you to distinguish truly harmful behavior in your relationships from typical, daily personality conflicts.

I have several friends and relatives who have gone through repeated, emotionally and physically traumatic experiences due to emotionally unstable family members who either refuse to take medication or are not helped by it. However, we all must, from time to time, handle the type of emotional hardships common to unstable or purposely hurtful people, whether in a situation on the job, in the neighborhood, or with relatives. While talking with a friend about recent stresses with a bipolar spouse, it became apparent that some of the difficulties I have seen myself, friends, and family experience in unhealthy relationships stem from an unclear view of what real love is.

The inability to identify real love causes some people to devote the years and effort of an entire lifetime to relationships that continually bring them harm when they could learn to identify and develop the truly loving, healing relationships in the realm of their existence. It is not God’s desire for any person to come to the end of his/her life having never experienced truly loving relationships on a consistent basis. The more of a clear, definite understanding that one has of real love, the easier it is to know where to draw the line and ban emotionally hurtful behavior.

Obviously, small amounts of hurtful behavior take place even in the healthiest relationships, especially during times of stress, exhaustion, or illness and vary in form due to the personality type.

The more frequent or intensely hurtful such behaviors become, the less healthy the relationship. Before covering the definition of real love, let’s briefly touch on something I’ve seen and experienced growing up in a religious environment. Religious beliefs or a compliant personality cause many to endure long-term, emotionally unhealthy relationships; one feels an unrealistic guilt about getting help. (A compliant personality has difficulty in standing up for his own well-being in relationships with stronger willed, controlling people. There is suggested reading at the end of this article for compliant personalities.)

Though the topic cannot be fully covered here, it is helpful to those who stay in harmful relationships due to unfounded guilt to focus on the nature of God.

Though Scripture may not specifically address the type of emotional harm you are enduring, recognizing that God’s unfailing love for you always desires healing and wholeness for your life should be motivation to seek some sort of help and improvement. (For more detailed reading on God desiring healing and wholeness for your life, see “Believe You Deserve to be Well” in the Personal Reflections Category.) As you learn to discern the difference between low-level, hurtful behaviors caused by daily stress, etc. and those that cause deep-seated emotional hurts, you can then draw boundaries and begin to disallow the behaviors that bring lasting harm, freeing you to focus on loving relationships.

A detailed look at a definition of real love will help us in distinguishing between destructive behavior patterns and those from typical life stress. Real love is illustrated by the following healing behaviors:

Love is kind. It is never envious, nor boils over with jealousy. It is not boastful or display itself in a haughty way. Love is not conceited or arrogant. It does not behave rudely, unmannerly, or act in ways that are unbecoming. Real love does not insist on its own way, for it is not self-seeking. Love is not touchy, fretful, or resentful. Love does not rejoice at injustice or unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love believes the best of other people. (Taken from the Amplified Version** of 1 Cor. 13:4-7)


I encourage you to take some time to use the above definition of love to honestly evaluate your own behavior and that of those who are closest to you and most influential in your life.


A person who brings repeated emotional and/or physical harm to your life may say that they love you; they may even believe it, but make yourself focus on the truth of what real love behaves like. Realize that a person who truly loves you will honor boundaries you set up against behavior that is emotionally, physically, and spiritually damaging to your person. Once they are aware that their behaviors are hurtful to you and not acceptable, a truly loving person will make the effort to change. It may be difficult for them to hear what you have to say, but a truly loving person will love you enough to do whatever it takes to adapt so that they will not be personally responsible for bringing repeated harm to your life.

This is a 2 – part blog topic. In the next Personal Reflection, we will take specific, real life behaviors from a relationship and use the definition of real love to evaluate it. This will give you an example of how you can apply the definition of love to your relationships.

I highly recommend the book “Boundaries: When to Say, “Yes,” When to Say, “No,” to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It is an average reading level and the book gives real life relationship examples throughout to make it easy for you to identify your personality type, weaknesses, personality types of friends, family, co-workers, etc. I believe it was on the NY Best Sellers List for several years. The ISBN on the softcover version is 0-310-24745-4. This book is fantastic for those who struggle with guilt in standing up for their well-being, as mentioned in the article, due to religious beliefs or personality type, as well as for anyone wanting to develop healthier, loving relationships. It will also help you determine whether or not you should seek the support of a counselor (best if you can use a referral) to assist you in dealing with hurtful relationships.

** The part of the Bible referred to as the New Testament was originally written in Greek. Many words in the original Greek have deeper meanings than what a similar English word can convey. A more thorough understanding of what Scripture actually means is achieved by reading definitions of the main words in a quoted verse as actually understood by the original author and readers. This is a common occurrence when translating many foreign languages. The Amplified Version includes the full, expanded definitions of the original Greek which usually is not usually translated into English due to the increased length of the translation.

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3 Responses to “Recognizing Real Love Part 1 of 2”

  1. » Blog Archive » Defining Harmful Behavior Says:

    […] more information on identifying harmful behavior, see my posts, “Recognizing Real Love Part 1 & 2.” Share ThisBookmark and Share This Page | « CloseSave to Browser […]

  2. Jennie Gilbert Says:

    This article makes me ask some questions of myself. How could I every really love someone this truly and this completely? When was the first time I got haughty with my honey, when I thought it was obvious that a household task should be done in a certain way (my way)? But then having a difference of opinion is ok as long as I don’t make him feel stupid simply for disagreeing with me. It seems to be so easy to fall into bad habits with those you share your life with. On the other hand, of course, I always, in every instance, want to be treated with your definition of love. There’s the double standard.

  3. R.H. Says:

    Hi, dear friend! Thanks for stopping by and for the insightful words of wisdom!

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