“Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” was a popular expression in the 1970s. But anyone who has ever been married, tried to resolve a family conflict or heal a broken relationship between two co-workers knows that saying couldn’t be further from the truth. Love means having to say you’re sorry, recognize your own weaknesses, and learn how to overlook others’ faults. Love is active, not passive. Love is more of a verb than just a noun.
In his new book, Gary Chapman, bestselling author of THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES, explores what it means to choose love in your marriage, relationships and life --- even when it’s not easy. Unlike his previous titles --- many of which are self-help in nature --- LOVE IS A VERB is a collection of 40 real-life stories of everyday people practicing the art of love. Each story is written in first-person and highlights a moment when it was difficult to express or even feel love. Then they share how they reignited their hearts to choose to love once again. Chapman offers a few brief paragraphs of what can be learned from the story.
One particularly moving chapter, “The Changeling,” describes a mother who had to learn to love her son twice. The child had captured his mother’s heart when he first entered the world, and filled it with joy and delight. But at the age of five, his health began to suffer. Nearly two years later, he had a massive stroke. When he recovered from the coma, the young boy had been transformed from a loving ball of laughter to someone who spewed “I hate you” and “You’re dumb and stupid” to everyone he encountered --- including his mother. Overwhelmed by the hostility of her own child, the mother struggled to love her unlovable son. Eventually, he made some improvements and slowly was reintegrated into a program for challenged students at the local school. Over the years, she found herself falling in love with her son all over again, not as who he was but who he had become.
Chapman concludes this powerful story:
“Life happens. The unexpected can occur in any of our lives at any time. Most of us are very cognizant of that fact --- so much so that we may easily fall into the trap of worrying about all the “what ifs” that we someday might have to face. Thankfully, (this story) reminds us that although life happens and tragedies ensue, love has the ability to adapt. Somehow love is flexible and strong enough to step up to the challenges it faces.”
While some of the stories describe married couples who have lost that loving feeling, a good portion of the book is dedicated to challenges and trials that emerge in all kinds of relationships. One story describes a family who chooses to deliver hot coffee to some tired, cold rangers as a blessing, while another describes a woman who reconnected with her sisters after years of separation.
Overall, the quality of these stories is solid, but fans of Gary Chapman may find themselves wishing he had contributed more than a four-page introduction and a few paragraphs at the end of each chapter. Recommended to fans of Chapman as well as readers of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on May 1, 2009