It’s Valentine’s Season, which means it’s high time for us guys to give in to the pressures of advertisements all around us. According to ads I’ve seen lately, my wife needs chocolate, flowers, dinner, vacation, alone-time, and – what she really wants – diamonds. Sorry Love. Daddy doesn’t have the funds for diamonds this year.

Apparently, the only way to express love in our modern world is to buy a lot of stuff. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with getting your wife or significant other a gift for Valentine’s day. Especially if their love language is gifts. But, there’s got to be more to love than trinkets, right?

So, if you turn to entertainment you’ll either find out that love is that feeling you get when someone you like likes you back and then taking advantage of that feeling to satisfy your own physical cravings. I’m no expert, but I don’t think that sounds like love.

Hallmark would tell us that love is when a guy gives up on his high-paying career in the big city to move to a small town to help save the farm that the woman he just met inherited after her parents died. Ironically, there are some hints of love in that. Except for that part about meeting and getting engaged after a week.

So, what is love? How do we know when we’re in love? What are the hallmarks of true love?

1.) Selflessness

True love is selfless. Selfishness is what creates most of the tension in Hallmark movies. The guy wants his dream and so does the girl. Our world would tell us the opposite. You know you’re in love when that person not only makes you feel a certain way but when they are willing to do things for you that you deserve. All the attention is on what the other person is doing for me. But that’s not love. That’s greed. That’s taking advantage of someone else for my own benefit.

Love is selfless. Love is less concerned with itself and more concerned with the other. Love isn’t obsessed with its own interests, using people along the way to take steps towards the fulfillment of those interests and then cutting people lose when they no longer serve my interests.

2.) Serving

True love serves the other. I’m not going to use the scary “S” word that gets a lot of hate in marriage circles these days, but in true love, there is a mutual service that takes place. No, it’s not one person serving the other while the other person receives all the benefits of their service. That’s taking advantage. But when you love someone, you’re willing to serve them in ways that take care of their needs. And if you’re in a healthy relationship, the other person will also serve you in in a way that takes care of some of your needs.

One person might do the grocery shopping while the other person handles the finances. One person might maintain the car or house while the other takes care of the laundry. And, here’s where true service starts to shine, when one person hates doing something the other may take on that duty out of love, even if they’re not any good at it. Because true love serves.

3.) Secure

True love is secure. It’s another word for trust, but since I had 4 words that started with S, It was only prudent that I find another word for it. Yes, trust is something that we must maintain. As Jeremy Piven’s Character said in “Family Man”: “The fidelity bank and trust is a tough creditor. You make a deposit somewhere else, they close your account – FOREVER!” Though the numbers have been trending more towards even in the last decade or two, historically men have been the ones who lose their credit with the bank.

Outside of that, true love is secure. What does that mean? Free from danger or threat. It’s a belief in the reliability of the other person. It means there is nothing to hide, which means there is nothing to suspect. It means we aren’t looking for how close we can get to the line before crossing it, which means we aren’t expecting the other to cross the line. I’m not constantly living in fear that trust will be broken, I am secure.

4.) Steadfast

This is probably the biggest missing component in love in the world today. We don’t stick with anything anymore. We know very little of perseverance. This is the difference between contractual and covenantal love. Contractual love says, as soon as one party breaks their end of the agreement I’m out. Covenantal love is, I’m in this for the long haul – yes, even when the other party lets me down.

It means we remain loyal to someone regardless of circumstances. We don’t look for loopholes to sever the relationship. In the Bible, the word means to “tarry behind, remain, not recede or flee.” It means, when everyone else would jump ship, we stay on board doing everything we can to keep the ship afloat.

“But what about toxic people”. It’s such a touchy subject. Because, no I don’t believe people should have to be in abusive relationships. But, our modern culture has made it so nearly every person is toxic. If someone is truly being abusive, has a long track record of it, has been confronted on it, counseled through it, and is unrepentant through it all, then that person is not being steadfast, selfless, or sacrificial. So, yes there are times when it’s acceptable. But we have such a small tolerance for the imperfections of others in our era that we aren’t generally even in this discussion. (Much could, should, and has been said about this. Much more than can be said here.)

As Paul said on the podcast, “It’s the unconditional caring and/or joy towards another person.” Steadfast love is love without conditions. We have so many conditions on love these days. But true love is unconditional.

5.) Sacrificial

I believe you could summarize the previous 4 hallmarks with this one word, sacrifice. As we said in the podcast, “Love sacrifices itself for the betterment of others.” It means I’m willing to give up my desires and dreams so they can have theirs. It means when I’m tired and they need help, I give help. It means I don’t just use the other person to get my feel-goods, but I give to the other person even when I don’t feel good. It alludes back to one of the 7 core virtue of manhood – Ham. What’s the difference between the Chicken and the Egg when it’s time for the farmer’s breakfast at Bob Evans? The Chicken makes a contribution, but the Pig makes a sacrifice.

Love gives of itself, pours itself out for the other person. We are living drink offerings, pouring ourselves into the lives of the ones we love. We don’t take advantage of others to get what we want, we don’t swipe right just so we can get that “need” taken care of, we give of ourselves for the benefit of others in our lives.

Yes, it can take a lot out of us when we love in that way. But, love isn’t about us. Love is always about someone else.

So, as you’re thinking about what you’re going to do for the ones you love this Valentine’s Day, think about how you can give of yourself for your significant other. And all the other others in your life.