Journey to Love, Day 2: How to Recognize Love

Journey to Love, Day 2: How to Recognize Love

You can review previous journey messages here.

Worthy of Love

“Do you think my father loved me?”

A few years ago, I wrote a book about fathers and daughters called Sky Lantern. As a result, every few months, I get an email from a father asking about reconnecting with his daughter, or a daughter asking if her dad really loved her.

This particular email was hard. Her father had passed away, and all her memories of him had to do with him critiquing her. He didn’t celebrate her high school graduation, when she had been top of the class. He just asked her if she thought she could do it again in college. When she graduated college, he said it wasn’t much compared to a master’s degree. When she got her master’s, he sighed and said maybe there would be something to celebrate if she managed to get her doctorate. He had died soon after. So, she was wondering, did he ever really love her?

Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

How Can We Know If Someone Loves Us?

We wrote back and forth for several weeks, and in each email, she revealed a little bit more. She argued both sides, like she was both the defense and the prosecution.

I asked the occasional question, and each one set her off on another series of arguments and counterarguments. I couldn’t help but see a little bit of myself in the conversation as it twisted back and forth. We all have people who love us, or who should love us, theoretically. But even the most loving person has moments when they act in ways that don’t seem loving. And sometimes someone who doesn’t truly love us has a moment when they do something that appears loving, either by accident or to manipulate us. So how can we know if someone loves us or doesn’t? And, maybe harder . . . how can we know when we truly love someone else? Because there are times when convenience, or habit, or expectation, or guilt causes us to act as if we love someone when maybe we don’t.

Photo by Patryk Sobczak on Unsplash

What Does Love Look Like? What Doesn’t It Look Like?

The best we can do in moments of uncertainty is to be reminded of what love truly is, and what love isn’t.

So I started saying to my new friend: Okay, love is gentle. Was your dad gentle with you? Okay, love is kind. Was your father kind? Love forgives. Love is patient.

She started adding it all up, doing the math. She came to a place where she said, “You know what? My dad had all the signs of loving me. Every time you say, ‘Love is like this,’ I look and see it in how he treated me. In fact, I look at how I show love to my son now, and a lot of it . . . a lot of it is the same, even though I can also tell him I love him. My dad was a complex man who never shared his emotions well. I think he loved me but he didn’t know how to say it.”

You know what?

I looked back over her many emails and stories of her father. And I think she was absolutely right.


Imagine someone came to you confused about love—what it is, what it looks like, what its characteristics are. How would you describe love to them? What story would you tell? What words would you use?


Ask a friend to tell you a story of one person whom they have no doubt loves them. What makes them so sure? When did they first realize this person loved them? What moments, actions, or words contribute to their confidence in this person’s love?

Tomorrow, we’ll uncover and discuss the surprising truth that love is not peace. I am so glad we are doing this journey together!

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