Do I tell my loved ones often enough that I love them? Well, that depends. Perhaps a better question to ask is “When am I really saying ‘I love you’?”
The message that you love someone is almost never conveyed in the moment of saying the actual words “I love you.” So when and how does that message really take place and how can we learn to translate it?
For many people, this concept brings to mind the beginning narration of the movie Princess Bride:
Buttercup was raised on a small farm in the country of Florin. Her favorite pastimes were riding her horse and tormenting the farm boy that worked there. His name was Wesley, but she never called him that. ”Farm boy,” [she said], ”polish my horse’s saddle. I want to see my face shining in it by morning.” ”As you wish,” [he said]. ‘As you wish’ was all he ever said to her. ”Farm boy, fill these with water, please,” [she said]. ”As you wish,” [he replied]. That day she was amazed to discover that when he was saying ‘as you wish’ what he meant was, ‘I love you.’ And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.
I had my own moment of realization with my dad not too long ago. My dad tends to be a bit of a worrier, and even now that I’m an adult and am very responsible, he still cautions me all the time with the exact same phrases, such as, “Drive carefully,” or “Remember not to talk to strange men on the bus,” or “Make sure you’re eating.” Until recently, this used to annoy me, making me feel untrusted and incompetent, and I had to bite back a sarcastic reply.
Then one day it occurred to me that for my dad, worry is one of the ways his love manifests itself, and therefore these phrases were like Wesley saying “As you wish.” So the next time I heard him say “Drive carefully,” what I heard was “I love you.”
Here’s another example, just for fun. In high school, my best friend was always teasing my brother with the “banana” game. Whenever they would see a yellow object, the first person to punch the other person in the shoulder and shout, “banana!” would win. After we graduated high school, one day my best friend was showing me her scrap book. At one point, she started to turn a page, hesitated, and then skipped that page, hoping I wouldn’t notice. I did notice, but I wasn’t sure if I had imagined it. So when she left the room a little while later, I flipped back to that page. There I found a cute picture of her and my brother and a caption that said, ”Banana” means ”I love you.” I had always suspected my friend liked my brother, but seeing that caption was still a shock. I didn’t say anything about it to anyone until four years later, after my best friend became my sister-in-law.
Since then, my sister-in-law’s example has often caused me to wonder, “If I had a scrap book page for every person I care about, which words are my way of saying “I love you” to each person?”
Whenever we meet someone new or see someone we know, the socially acceptable thing to say is “How are you?” whether we really want to know how that person is doing or not and whether we expect an honest reply or not. The automaticity and mindlessness of this phrase used to bug me a little bit. Then one day I realized that saying “How are you?” can potentially be saying “I love you.” Whether or not this is true in every case, I decided to make it true for myself in my own interactions with others. So whenever I say the words “How are you,” to someone I care about (and I strive to care about everyone), in my head I am consciously thinking the words, “I love you.” I would challenge everyone reading this to do the same.
If I were to go about saying “I love you” to everyone I meet, or even to strangers, that could get awkward really fast. But by thinking “I love you” while saying “How are you,” my love translates through my tone of voice and people can feel my love in my vibration.
If you think about it, if we were to say the words “I love you” to someone a hundred times a day, the words would become meaningless, annoying, and even manipulating. However, when you truly love someone, everything you say to them can be really saying “I love you.” Everything except for the words “I love you,” that is. After all, when we say “I love you,” to someone, the other person is obligated to say “I love you” back, so the motives for saying “I love you” to begin with could be selfish ones, and thus “I love you” can’t always mean what it’s meant to mean because true love is selfless and loves others regardless of being loved in return.
Now, that’s not to say that there’s no purpose in saying the words “I love you.” True love, in a relationship sense (as opposed to a familial or Christlike sense), actually requires reciprocation. Developing a deep romantic love for someone when they don’t respond in kind is not only a recipe for heartache, but a great disservice to the person you love and will bring them problems. So in some cases, extending love with the expectation of love in return is not only unselfish, but highly necessary. So by all means, continue to tell your loved ones “I love you,” but just be aware that if your goal is to convey the sincerity of your love then other words can say it louder.
How does God say, “I love you”? In D&C 95:1 God says, “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten.”
Since I’m familiar with this scripture, whenever I feel the Lord chastening me and calling me to repent, I can feel the “I love you” within it. God doesn’t often say “I love you” in the scriptures, but when we come to know and understand God, we realize that everything God says is “I love you.”
Like the stories of my dad and sister-in-law, you have to truly know someone to know when they’re saying, “I love you.” And, like in the case of Princess Buttercup, you often can’t realize what they’re saying unless you truly love them too.
If you have any “as you wish” phrases in your life that you’d be willing to share, please comment below.