Although calmly getting someone together tends to be my default when I feel disrespected, I occasionally dabble in the dramatic in my response. I blame my younger self for the streak of excessiveness I possess, to be honest. Between involvement in choir, band, theatre, and the debate team as a high schooler, I perfected the art of performance. Consequently, I also perfected the art of doing the most.
Younger me definitely took the reins a couple weeks ago, when I found myself on FaceTime, exasperated by what felt like the millionth “Will you get it together?” conversation with a friend. As is the custom of myriad men (please do not #notallmen me unless you want a dramatic clapback of your own), he is often a poor communicator. As is not the custom of myriad men, however, he readily admits that. A blessing, sure. However, he still aligns with the lesser gender (I said what I said) in the fact that his admission of guilt is more frequently followed up with flowery sentiments, than with genuine action.
Consequently, hearing “That’s true, but you know I love you, though!” as a response to an issue I raised, sent me into extra/petty mode. I dramatically drew my phone far away from my face, and half-jokingly/half-seriously yelled, “LOVE IS AN ACTION WORD, MY GUY.”
I’m sure my 16-year-old inner drama queen rejoiced in that excessive moment.
We both started laughing, because admittedly, my delivery was ridiculous. But the sentiment was serious, and so–because I am a magnanimous goddess–I took the time to chill out and to present it to him in such a manner. Jury’s still out on whether the message stuck with him.
For me, love is not saying; it is doing. And that concept only really began to stick with me about 6 years ago, if I’m being honest. Despite having a Bible-wielding father who constantly reminded us that “Love is not about feeling, it is about action,” I was firmly in the camp of settling for warm fuzzies, for quite some time. At around 21 years old, without actually taking the Five Love Languages quiz, I convinced myself after reading through each language, that Words of Affirmation was the way in which I best received love.
False. (Quality Time and Receiving Gifts are my languages, for anyone who is secretly in love with the kid.)
The harsh reality is that during my late teens and early 20s, reciprocity was so lacking in most of my friendships (ya girl was very casual with the word “friend”; such an embarrassment) that I convinced myself that I could subsist on the bare minimum I often got in return from people. Usually that bare minimum was nothing more than words. I was hit by the aforementioned reality during my time as a full-time caregiver for my mom. People I’d bent over backwards for, and given my last to, were either painfully silent or barely in contact as I spent every day effectively watching my mother die.
Thankfully, though, that time of caregiving–and eventually loss–also showed me the “doers.”
I received out-of-the-blue phone and FaceTime calls from friends to talk about everything, or talk about nothing. I was mailed journals to document my feelings; letters of unwavering support; and a box of “Open when…” cards, for moments that I felt sad, or lost, or angry at God. When the time came to bury my mother, one of my friends flew from California to Michigan without question. In the lonely period that often comes after the onslaught of condolences wanes, I continued to receive calls from a handful of friends, one of whom did his best to be supportive despite struggling with being on the receiving end of emotion, or displaying it.
“How you feeling, B?” he’d ask. “You depressed and shit? Aye, make sure you go talk to somebody.”
Love is an action word. You can say that you love me; and say it and say it and say it. But the expression is hollow without actions to back it up. Let’s put it in context, shall we? You can tell your employer that you have strong interpersonal skills, but if you’re always in conflict with coworkers or clients, nobody is buying that. You can tell your financial advisor that you’re very good with money, but if your bank statements prove you to be more frivolous than frugal, they’re going to tell you you’ve got some work to do. I think you get the point here.
Are the feelsy, warm fuzzy, “d’awwwwww” elements of love and affection wonderful? Sure. But ultimately, love is a verb.
Love requires doing. Love requires working. Love requires effort.
So unless you’re just flippantly dropping L-bombs out here (wyd, beloved?), make sure that your actions match your words. They always speak more loudly.