Tiny Wisdom: What Love Isn’t

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun, like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” –Fred Rogers

Over the years, we form a lot of ideas about what love is, oftentimes based on unrealistic hopes and standards. We learn what we think it’s supposed to look like, and we may find ourselves frustrated when reality falls short.

It often does. Love can be messy, confusing, and imperfect, just like us, and life itself.

What Hallmark cards don’t always tell us is what love isn’t, but sometimes we need to strip away ideals in order to understand and appreciate what’s real.

Love isn’t always patient. Sometimes we get short, brusque, or frustrated with the people we love the most. Love is, however, recognizing that, taking a few deep breaths, and then doing our best to see the people we care about with compassion and understanding.

Love isn’t always kind. Sometimes we say things we later regret to the people we love the most. Love is, however, recognizing that, taking responsibility, and then doing our best to be caring and considerate in our future interactions.

Love isn’t always selfless. Sometimes we fail to consider the needs of the people we love the most. Love is, however, recognizing that, taking their feelings into account, and then doing our best to find a balance between giving and taking.

Love isn’t always trusting. Sometimes we doubt the people we love the most. Love is, however, recognizing that, taking a close look at where our suspicions really come from, and then doing our best to see the best in people instead of assuming the worst.

Love sometimes envies. Love is sometimes easily angered. Love sometimes keeps a record of wrongs. Love does all these things because we sometimes do these things.

Acknowledging this doesn’t mean condoning it; it means recognizing that love doesn’t cure us of our natural human tendency to make mistakes.

Love doesn’t fail because we mess up from time to time. It fails when we fail to accept that we all do, and then think something is wrong instead of making things right.

Love isn’t life without conflict. It’s about wanting and working to overcome it together.

Photo by Alice Popkorn

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • Thanks for this Lori, another gem from the heart to the heart. X’s. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Brilliantly said! Love is the most wonderful thing in the world, but it tends to be very complicated as well. 
    Love means work and many people refuse to continue and instead give up way to easily. 

  • Miclevine

    Hi, these are nice thoughts, and it’s helpful in many ways. I’ve always had issue however with the fact that we use ONE word for all the different kinds of love there are. Eskimos have something like 25 words for types of snow, because they understand subtle differences that we miss. Yet we use the word “love” for everything from romantic love to familial love to loving a food to sexual activity, etc. i really believe this lack of differentiation has been a huge factor in western society’s divorce rate and overall confusion. For instance, my Buddhist teacher has said the opposite ofnwhat you say in this article. That TRUE love is absent of anger, jealousy, any ego at all. That true love can never hurt (yourself) or cause delusion – and that that’s a good test to see if you really are loving someone at that moment vs. a feeling mixed with self-gratification. Yet we delude ourselves into

  • Michael

    Sorry, iPad froze. So to finish, i think your article has great points. However, i just prefer to distinguish the “love is…” and clarify that human relationships include….” and that that’s ok.

  • Z. Oviedo

    Good stuff. Love it! 🙂

  • Guest

    I love your daily insights and will continue to read them. However, I disagree with this particular article. 
    I think that Love is all those things you said it’s not (i.e. selfless, kind, patient, etc). That is what true love is. What is impatient, selfish and unkind is US. Even under the best circumstances, we turn on love because we are human. That is ok though. It is expected because we are so flawed, but the hope is that we recognize our faults (even if we will continue to make them) and live life to the fullest with love as the guiding light. 
    Maybe I misread the article, but we do have to separate what WE do versus what love is.

  • You’re most welcome Roel. =)

  • I couldn’t agree more Anne-Sophie!

  • Thank you. =)

  • Hi there,

    I don’t think you misread the article; I think we just have different perspectives, though they might be somewhat similar at their cores. If I understand what you wrote, your perspective is that love is pure, and when we are not patient, kind, or selfless, we are failing to show love–but we can recognize our faults and come back to love. My take is that love is the umbrella under which all that happens, and we honor love by working to improve when we make mistakes. Maybe they’re not so different after all!

    Much love,

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful!  Love is authentic *and* transparent and everything we allow it to be:)

  • Hi Miclevine,

    I understand your preference. I know what I’ve written is somewhat contrary to conventional wisdom, and I had a feeling it wouldn’t resonate with everyone! I think ultimately, we all have different ways we want to understand love; hopefully those definitions empower us to be good people, for ourselves and the people around us.

    Much love,

  • Guest

    Maybe not so different after all 🙂 Thanks for the follow up!

  • Rebecca Dreiling

    Love it! So, so very true.

  • Poets and philosophers have been sharing their views on love throughout the centuries, not necessarily agreeing with each other.  It’s always great to see another perspective and I’m happy to read and honour yours Lori.  Thank you for sharing as you always do, fearlessly.

  • I really like this article. Love isn’t perfect because we are human and we are not perfect. As you say ”
     Love can be messy, confusing, and imperfect, just like us, and life itself.” So true!

  • Robert C

    Hi Lori,

    Thank you for today’s post!
    Since I’ve been with my beautiful woman, her love and my love for her has simply made me a better person.
    Love has forced me to face things I’d otherwise choose to avoid, and come out all the better for it. Enough said 🙂


  • wishhh

    i really enjoyed your spin on things and am pleasantly receptive to this perception. i am human and i love deeply yet at times i falter like the best of us but most importantly i rise above it and step onto a different dimension so to speak. I become more aware of who i am, how i react, and most importantly the reason why i acted that way. 

    being human and making mistakes does not make my love any less genuine.  thank you for sharing your thoughts and i look forward to more! 🙂 

  • I agree!


  • tinybuddha

    Thanks Elle. =)

  • tinybuddha

    I love that definition–that love is authentic and transparent. Beautiful. =)

  • tinybuddha

    Thanks Rebecca!

  • tinybuddha

    Thanks Sheree!

  • tinybuddha

    You’re most welcome! That’s exactly the message I hoped to convey (that being human does not make love any less genuine).

  • tinybuddha

    You’re most welcome Robert. Sounds like you’re in a wonderful relationship. =)

  • Michael

    Thanks for the reply Lori. I really do like the article and it helps with current situations in my life, which is what really matters! Just offering my 2 cents for discussion. Be well!

  • trader mare

    I really enjoyed this posting.  I would add that that not only should we recognize when we may act in an un-loving manner, but that forgiveness is also an essential component when we forget.

  • Thanks Trader. That’s a wonderful addition. =)

  • I’ve just noticed that a lot of my comments on this post showed up under “tinybuddha.” I’m pretty sure you all realized those were from me, but just in case you did not, I’m letting you  know! Happy Saturday friends. =)

  • What you are describing here is Phileo love, the more “human” or conditional love. This can be very confusing to readers who do not realize the nature of Agape or unconditional love as in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 of which your post is cited.

  • Hi Ronnie,

    I’m looking at love as one idea that encompasses all kinds of love. I see it as one concept with different shades–but I realize this is my personal understanding, and not everyone’s!


  • Buddha called Light of Asia ,why….?

  • Believer

     Love is – 1 Corinthians 13

  • Delima []

    Hi Lori, thanks for sharing this – talking about love and accepting mistakes are something easy to say and very subjective matter. I just believe that it something determined by what “brain side” type you are. Right-brain person is more easy to feel and understand the concept of love, while the left-brain person tends to be a more logical person and treats love like a math calculation – regardless of how’s the person growth in his or her family.

  • You’re most welcome Delima. I suspect you’re right, that different people have different experiences of love.

  • Guest

    What is love? Baby dont hurt me no more….

  • Mike Bockey


  • Miley not so circus

    Love is pure it’s us sinners that make
    It less than pure , you cannot purely love another until you completely love your self , we are impatient and therefore do not realize or errors until we are committed to them, then we make lemonade .

  • Wildcat

    Wow! Im sure God loves Buddhism! he explains His point in a in a way like He meant for it to be. –unlike the guilt-ridden messages you hear from your Sunday Club.–oops! I mean Church!