The Truth About Love: What Unselfish Love Teaches Us

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the truth about love? What lessons can you learn from unselfish love?

When you live as part of God’s family, you experience unselfish love. This is a skill you develop throughout life. As you practice this skill, you discover the truth about love.

Read more to learn the truth about love.

Being in God’s Family Creates Unselfish Love

We’re each a product of God’s love, so it makes sense that love serves as the foundation of your spiritual family. In loving your spiritual family, you’ll learn the essential skill of unselfish loving. Unselfish loving means loving others, even when it’s difficult to do so—such as when they’re being rude, it’s inconvenient for you, or they need too much from you. Learning this skill will take you a lifetime of work, and it certainly won’t come as easily as loving your like-minded friends or your easy-to-love spouse.

The Truth About Love

The work of learning and practicing unselfish love will reveal the truth about love: 

1) Love Is the Most Important Part of Your Life

The truth about love is that it is central. Throughout the Bible, God reveals the importance of relationships in our lives. 

  • For example, all Ten Commandments are about relationships: Four of them apply to your relationship with God, and six of them apply to your relationships with others. 

Unfortunately, long-term work like relationship-building is often pushed aside when more urgent wants or needs come up. Keep in mind that those wants and needs are confined to your life on earth—your relationship with your spiritual family is eternal and therefore more deserving of your time and energy. 

2) Love Is Best Expressed by Time

We naturally spend more of our time and energy on things we love—therefore, one of the greatest ways you can show someone love is simply spending time on your relationship with them. Your time reveals that they are important to you because time is a precious gift—you have a finite amount of it. Giving some of your time to someone represents giving a small part of your life to them that you can’t get back. 

The truth about love is that it’s not about giving things to people or thinking about them. Love is about giving or sacrificing part of yourself to someone. 

  • For example, sitting with your elderly neighbor for tea is an expression of unselfish love. You likely have more interesting things to do with your time, but you sacrifice them to give your neighbor some companionship. 

3) Love Should Be Shown Now

Nothing in life is guaranteed—you don’t know how long you have to show love to others. For this reason, it should be a top priority in your life. 

  • For example, you may not live to see tomorrow, a friend may move away, and your children are continually growing older. 

Furthermore, it’s best to get started on showing love as soon as you can because one day you will be judged by God and will have to explain why you didn’t spend more time and effort on showing love in your relationships. 

  • Will you need to explain that staying late at work was more important than family dinners, or that you knew you should’ve spent more time with someone, but didn’t? Will you have to admit the unimportant activities that filled your schedule?

Consider whether the way you’re treating your relationships would make you feel ashamed when it comes time to explain yourself. Then, find ways to make your relationships a higher priority in your life—for example, by staying after church to meet other members or scheduling regular coffee dates with a neighbor. (Shortform note: Read our summary of The Last Lecture for a deeper look at the importance of putting love at the top of your priority list.)

As you experience unselfish love in the context of God’s family, you will discover the truth about love.

The Truth About Love: What Unselfish Love Teaches Us

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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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