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Is loving and acting loving the same thing?

This is less a question than something I want us to chew on together especially as it impacts the way we live. Growing up I was taught to act loving. I Corinthians 13 and other passages provided the guidelines to follow and we were supposed to “act” that way to keep on God’s good side.

Over the last couple of decades I’ve discovered that loving someone and acting like I love someone are two different realities. While there is value to acting in love even if it isn’t in your heart, the real power of love is a growing affection for people around us. When you genuinely care about someone you will act in loving ways intuitively. If I’m just acting it is often begrudgingly. (And I’m not just talking about emotional feelings here, but something deeper rising from the heart.) I’ve noticed how often Jesus was “moved with compassion” to touch a certain person.

Is anyone else noticing this in their growth process? How different is it to act in love and to actually love? What I like about the former is that God works in the heart; the other is us trying to perform. What do you think?


In answer to the question, all I can say is “No Way!” Acting loving and really loving are worlds apart.

Here’s an example from my day to day life why I think this.
I work a night shift and live in a one bedroom flat on the ground floor, there is a lady lives in the flat above me, has done for about 3 years. I sleep from midday to evening to get up about an hour before work. I still do this. However about a year into her moving in I was ready to put my two hands around her neck and squeeze, that used to go on in my thoughts every time I heard her banging about and waking me up.
I had always believed from the IC that God looks after his own so I was praying hard every day that they would move. One morning as she was leaving to go off to work and I was bitterly watching her leave out of my front window I felt God say to me. "I love her too, you know.“
My little world was rocked as I thought into that and everything lined up in what I was getting to understand about the Love of Father, from the Podcasts to " He Loves Me” to the scriptures.
I crazy thing was I felt Fathers warmth in it all, I didn’t need this I want them gone. But two years later I see that those thoughts are further away and I have had several conversations with this lady as we pass in the entrance and around the place. I feel there is a care for her building that was not there before and can honestly say she has woken me up on a number of occasions and mostly I simple roll over ask Father to be kind to her and help her with her chores.
What I see from this example is as I have been opening myself to walking in Fathers affection and allowing myself to actually believe that He loves me more than anyone on the planet ever could or ever will. I am growing inside not to lean on my ability to love others which in this case wasn’t possible but to rely on the love of God that wells up from inside and enables me to carry out what is needed.
I still have a way to go with loving others and I feel that I can safely say Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are at work rewiring me to a loving way to treat others. It is a part of this journey and one that I find very satisfying. I hated sitting around all day with that feeling of bitterness invading my thoughts and shutting out some of the cool stuff I now experience.
Hope this explains how I am noticing my growth process in one area of my life and with gladness I see it in other similar places.


Thanks for sharing that, Ian. Really encouraging.

Next to “really loving” and “acting loving,” there is another category that works kinda’ like this: You feel pressured to act interested because you’re pressured to prove you love them. If you don’t “love” them like they want to be loved, then you don’t love them at all. Real downer in the pastorate. Guess other people have the same thing in some form or another. Not the same as preferring others before yourselves. More like keeping up appearances. If you don’t jump through their hoop, they cut you off before you get any chance to form a genuine relationship. Now I’d say, it rarely ever works. Co-dependent congregations are a mess. I’m working at more honest relationships with people outside IC, but it’s still hard. Like peeling layers of onion skin.

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Now this is an interesting question… :slight_smile:

I agree that there is a big difference between trying to conjure up some behaviors that make you look loving, and actually having the love of God bubble up inside you, and spill over to others around you. I think this is the difference between trying to conjure up a feeling, some actions, or behaviors as compared to actually having genuine love for others that displays the fruit of the Spirit. I also agree that when there is real love in your heart, that love will overflow intuitively. This happened when God changed my life when I learned about His love a few years ago.

I have noticed that, when God puts love in your heart, you almost can’t stop treating others with kindness, or have some kind of compassion towards others that are hurting. On the other hand, if it is merely a behavior you are trying to employ, then it doesn’t work so good, or it often fails, or it only works for a short time. This is the big difference between trying to act out 1 Corinthians 13 and actually experiencing Gods love and His power working in and through you to make you love others so much that you almost automatically act kind toward them.

Now let’s keep it real… I aint perfect… but when I see God love other people through me, it’s very exciting. When I see God inspire me to help make other peoples lives a little less miserable, I can see that this isn’t the way I was a few years ago. There came a time when some people tried to help me learn about Gods love, seeing that I was an arrogant know-it-all… Back then I didn’t mind brushing people aside, and dismissing their misery as their fault due to their unwise choices… Now I can see that maybe they have made some unwise choices in life, but now I get inspired to be kind anyway, so I can help them so their life can be a little less miserable. Now I can see that God loves them anyway, and He wants them loved, and God brings about deep compassion within me to help them be loved… And I can tell you that this kind of compassion wasn’t in me before I learned about God’s love.

Bailey, NC


I guess its all in how you define love.

One of the hardest questions for me to answer on this God Journey, is, ‘What is Love?’ My birthparents, for example, expressed it in two entirely different ways. My mother was very demonstrative with her love, she would say ‘I love you’ after every interchange, and was free with her hugs and kisses. My father, on the other hand, was not, instead, he showed through his support of our activities, his faithfulness to his work so he could provide for us. They complemented eachother perfectly.

I am more like my dad in my expression of love. Maybe its a male thing, maybe not. I had a male friend and classmate who couldn’t understand why my dad and I didn’t show affection with eachother. Another friend was the same way with his father and brother. It didn’t come natural to us. When my dad became ill, and eventually passed away, there was no outwardly show of love amongst us before his death. He was incapable of it, being in a coma. But before he died, there was a tear that streamed down his cheek. It said more to me than any ‘I love you’ he could have mustered up. I knew he loved us, even though it was difficult for him to show it.

I often confuse love with tolerance, niceness, happiness, cheerfulness, a positive attitude toward others. Has anyone ever said to you, ‘I love you with the love of the Lord’, and it makes you cringe? Somehow you know they aren’t being geniune. Sometimes I simply don’t love someone. Sometimes I struggle to love, at all.

I once heard the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. I’ve had people in my life I once knew intimately act indifferent toward me, and it is the worst feeling in the world. I’m sure many people believe that God is at best, indifferent. It shows up in the way the act in general, and toward others, in their lack of respect. Even a God of wrath is better than an indifferent God, no? For me, no! I’ll take a God of love, to love me enough for me to give that love to others as well.

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But how do you love someone who doesn’t like your way of life and will attempt to do anything in their power to destroy you? That type of love, I simply don’t possess.

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There was a time I was standoffish and an arrogant know-it-all myself. I had to be knocked down a few pegs to realize that we, as human beings, are more alike, than different. I still catch myself copping a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude around certain types of people. Still some pride and stubborness to be worked through and away…

No I don’t possess that type of love either and would need to lean heavily on God to help me. Looking at Jesus and how he coped with those that did try to destroy him would be my first place I’d look to see if I can get insight as to how God will move in me to make that real. But that kind of Loving would come from inside bubbling up. as MrM says above,

It is that love that bubbles up and spills out of us that is not me but God living in me.

So true, however I did have this running through my mind as I read your post above.
“Don’t should on yourself and don’t should on your friends.” I love that saying and I would enjoy wearing the T.Shirt when encountering people like that… :joy:
See I have a ways to go in learning to be loving in all situations… possibly??

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I’d like one of those T-shirts, too!! Maybe Wayne needs a “gear” section in his online store! LOL??

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Thanks for your response Ian. I was thinking of the life of Jesus with my question, yet, more specifically, with a situation that happened in my own life recently, which affected me both mentally and spiritually, and thankfully has passed. I think of people who have members of their family murdered, for example, yet at least verbally, they forgive the murderer.

Its like we have living water in us, and God comes along and drops in Alka-Seltzer, to activate the living water. I like that.

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You think he ‘should’ (lol) !?!?

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Well, I’m not thinkin’ my husband would let me wear it in public . . . . . . but the sentiment is sound.

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I found it! Here’s an example of love in healthy relationships, when you don’t have to “act loving”: In a relational network, people are treated honestly for who they are, and if they are disruptive, people will continue to love them, though they will refuse to be exploited by them. [Middle of page 167, and I added the bold.]

When you love people but aren’t allowed to be honest in the relationship, it just sours everything. You feel like you are being exploited and behaving dishonestly at the same time.

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Sometimes the best way to love people is to leave them alone. That’s the problems with having “rules” for loving. The battered wife must always return to her husband if she forgives him, or the abused child must “respect” a parent who is not worthy of respect. Love as a way of living takes into account the unique people and situations we are in. Loving someone doesn’t mean just being nice and letting them take advantage of you. Sometimes loving people means you tell them the truth and if they refuse to stop being destructive, you give them a wide berth. You don’t have to be someone else’s victim in the name of love.


All that makes sense. I guess we’ve heard so much legalism over the years, it’s hard to imagine that good sense is really good. As far as giving the destructive types a wide berth, that would be one more reason to give the IC a break. Telling people the truth is generally not safe there. They are so anxious to grow their church, you don’t dare do anything that might offend. After a while, I realized that the threat of taking offense was a pretty strong manipulative tool. Just can’t make any headway in an environment like that. . . . . . . So outside the world of the IC, if someone insists on being ugly and they just don’t get invited to supper anymore, they might get to thinking out in Wide Berth that they need to change their ways? We don’t have to give them a platform to continue their destruction. Everyone matters, not just those who are most adamant about having their way.

I have certainly experienced both. Loving from the heart is much more genuine and spontaneous, but I find that I have to ‘act in love’ with those people who are not necessarily very lovable. And then I have had to learn about boundaries with people who are ‘stuck’ or who always see the glass half empty. [quote=“waynejacobsen, post:15, topic:239”]
Sometimes loving people means you tell them the truth and if they refuse to stop being destructive, you give them a wide berth. You don’t have to be someone else’s victim in the name of love.

I often pray that I can love like Jesus loves, but there are so many situations where I end up feeling confused about certain relationships and my part in them. Jesus had such a perfect way of loving. Loving like He loves often seems unattainable.

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I think the difference between acting loving and actively loving is the few inches between head and heart. In times past when I have tried to muster up love or act loving, it was with my head (intention) and came off a lot like tolerance – as if I was mustering up every shred of love I could for that person because there wasn’t enough I could see within them to generate it.

However, actively loving is definitely led via the heart. It doesn’t often make “sense” or is even logical.

For me personally, really loving someone (and not acting it out) comes from knowing them and knowing their story. I don’t think there is a person who has lived who didn’t have some sort of experience or event that upon hearing it, generates compassion and sheds light upon the reason they have seemed hard to love.

The beauty of not being locked into an IC for me is that there is time. So much more time to listen to stories, to dig down to feelings and emotions. To be geniunely interested because I have the time to do it and connect with that person on a deeper level. And honestly, because it is no longer about a time issue, I actually want to do it – rather than just tolerate them from what I have engaged thus far in the sporadic interactions during the social coffee time or a few moments at a church retreat.


One of my favorite quotes is, "“There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story. ”
― Mary Lou Kownacki. There may be a couple of exceptions here, but not many, and probably no one we know!

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It’s less about hoping they’ll change their ways as it is recognizing that the time we give to relationships is precious and we don’t want to squander it. We can’t build relationships with every one and there’s a sensitivity we can develop as to the relationships God is calling us into, and conversely those we just don’t have time for. A lot of that has to do with desire. God will put in our heart those people he wants us to connect with and we’ll know it’s him when they have a corresponding desire. Not all do.

If I’m caring about someone who is “relationally challenged” especially in a destructive way that makes it difficult to invite them when others are around, that usually merits a kind, compassionate conversation. I don’t think most people mean to be destructive, they just act out of insecurities they either can’t see or are otherwise unaware of. If I love them, I don’t mind risking the difficult conversation to let them know how they come off to people. Yes that often ends in hurt and accusations at me as they initially react, but often in a few weeks they come around and recognize that there may be something for Jesus to help them with. Truly it is “hurt” people who hurt people. Helping them not be hurt anymore is a gift!