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I love you, but

This isn't directed at anyone, nor is it a complaint.  Take it as food for thought.  I don't know how many times in the last several months I've heard the phrase "I love you, but...".  In my post "What's a Mormon?" a few months ago, I briefly mentioned what I thought about this phrase.  Here I'll expound a bit more.

Of course, the most common situation where someone uses this phraseology is when they're talking to someone who's gay.  "I love you, but I just don't agree with your lifestyle choices." or "I love you, but I don't like the decisions you're making."  Yes, it happens in all sorts of scenarios, usually when someone doesn't live up to someone else's expectations (including the case of a friend or parent expecting a child to be straight and being disappointed when this is not the case).

So, first I want to ask the question, why is this necessary?  Is the need to express your disapproval of someone's choices/lifestyle/etc so compelling that you do so in the same breath as your expression of love?  Is your love for that person directly linked with your approval or disapproval of their choices?  Is it linked to their sexual orientation?  Do you mean to express conditional love or unconditional love?  If unconditional, then why do you feel any need to make an addendum to the quite simple sentence "I love you."?

When my family gets together, my older brothers (including my brother-in-law) invariably discuss sports--whatever sport is in season, or just sports in general.  I don't like sports.  I've never been interested in sports.  Many of the people in my family would watch sports games, including the olympics and everything, and I would watch as well, but it never piqued my interest.  So, when my brothers talk about sports, I have no clue what they're talking about.  They rattle off names as if they went to high school with these guys, and they rattle off stats and anecdotes and everything.  I feel completely lost whenever I try to listen or participate in the conversation.  But, when I tell them that I love them, I feel no need to say "I love you, but I just can't appreciate your interest in sports." or "I love you, but I don't agree with your jock-brain." because my love for them is in no way connected with their interest in sports.  Whether they like sports or not, they're my brothers and I love them.  I don't love them because they like sports, nor do I love them in spite of them liking sports.  They're just completely unrelated events.

Imagine how long an expression for love would be if you had the need to list everything that you disagree with someone on in it?  "I love you, but I disagree with your political views, I don't like your favorite color, I think you've arranged your front room with really strange furniture, I don't agree with the way you homeschool your children rather than sending them to public school, etc. etc."  Such things seem completely absurd when you say them.  And yet, for some reason people feel this propensity to say "I love you, but I don't agree with your choices" whenever they're talking to someone who's gay.  Why is this?  Is there some innate characteristic of love that people expect everyone who loves them agrees with them on everything?  Did I ever mention at any point in time that I assume people don't love me unless they believe homosexual behavior is moral and gay marriage should be legalized?

I love you.  That's all.  There's no qualification, you don't have to measure up to this expectation or that.  You don't have to agree with me and I don't have to agree with you.  That's what love is.  If you say you love me, I don't assume that all of my opinions are yours as well.  If I say I love you, I certainly don't mean that I agree with you on everything.  But whether I agree with you, your choices, your interests, your goals, your sexual orientation, your political ideas, etc, is completely irrelevant to my love for you.  To me, "I love you" means "I care about you.  I rejoice when you are happy, I mourn when you mourn, I am angered by the things that upset you, I want to comfort you when I see that you are down."  It doesn't mean that I accept all of your ideologies, or your views.  It doesn't mean that I think everything you do is moral, good, wonderful, etc.  So, I don't need to explicitly state that when I express my love for you.  I can just say "I love you" and leave it at that.

Most of my friends are religious--in fact, most are Mormon.  I love them, even though I disagree with their religious views.  Most of my friends go to football games regularly.  I love them, even though I can't stand football (more specifically, the crowd mentality that prevails at the stadium).  Most of my friends are republican, and nearly all the rest are democrats.  I love them, even though I can't say that I subscribe to the platforms of either party, nor do I believe there are many politicians in either party whom I could--in good conscience--vote for.  Many of my (male) friends like action movies.  I watch these movies with them out of friendship, but I do not enjoy violence, blood, or gore.  I love these people even though I do not like these movies.  In each of these cases, I have never felt any need to add anything to the phrase "I love you" when expressing this love for anyone in any of these categories.  "I love you, but you're a republican." seems a bit unnecessary.

Perhaps it is that you aren't saying this statement of "I love you, but I don't agree with your choices." because you want to express love, but because you really want to say that you disagree with that person being/doing whatever it is you're saying you disagree with.  If this is the case, why not leave the love out of it?  Why not just be honest and say "I think homosexuality is immoral." or whatever's on your mind?  Does saying "I love you" at the beginning somehow soften the blow?  Do you think that the person you're talking to will think that you hate them because of what you're about to say?  Of all the people who have told me that they support the Christian tradition of homosexuality being immoral, I have never felt that their declaration of belief to me was an expression of hatred.  I have never felt hate from anyone who has told me their personal feelings.  The fact that they want to share their feelings with me is touching, and makes me think that they care about me.  The fact that they want me to do what is right, to be moral and upstanding,  is a touching sentiment.  When I grade my students' papers and mark all of the answers that they got wrong, I don't add "I love you, but you missed some points on this test.".  (If I did, I'd probably have a lawsuit on my hands.)

Maybe what you mean to say instead of "I love you, but..." is "Because I love you...".  Maybe you want to say "Because I love you, I want you to be happy, so I'm going to share with you one way that I think that can happen."  Or "Because I love you, I want you to always do what is right.  I think you're doing something wrong, so here's what I think you should do to fix it."  This way, you're not making your love and your advice work against each other, you're making them work together.  Your love is the motive for helping a friend out.

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