The 1965 movie, “Shenandoah”, is about Charlie Anderson (played by Jimmy Stewart) who as a widower and family patriarch tries to protect his family and Virginia farm from becoming involved in the Civil War conflict. One of the great scenes occurs when Sam, a young Confederate lieutenant, asks Charlie for his daughter Jennie’s hand in marriage. The conversation goes something like this: “Why?” Charlie asks, “Why do you want to marry her?” “Because I love her,” Sam replies. “I know that!” Charlie snaps back. “That’s not good enough, Sam. The question is, do you like her?” There’s a pause as Sam is obviously puzzled by this unexpected question. Impatient for an answer, Charlie yells out again. “I just said, do you like her! There’s a difference between love and like, you know . . .”
Too often we think of love as simply a higher form of like. In other words we think if we like someone enough our feelings might advance into the love category. If that were the case, though, the human capacity for love would be very limited. Liking someone means to take pleasure in their company, to enjoy being with them – no doubt an essential element in marriage as Jimmy Stewart tries to emphasize to his future son-in-law. While it is probably true that we do love the people we like, love is not limited to that rather select group. The human capacity for love, in fact, is infinitesimal. It has no limits because it is a choice, an intentional decision rather than an emotional state. Unlike liking someone which depends on the nature and behavior of the other person, when we choose to love it is without regard to another’s nature or behavior. Love is patient and kind. It means not being rude or self-seeking. It protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. Love never fails to improve relationships in some way, nor does it ever fail to make the world a better place.
There is a difference between love and like, you know . . . . for love is much more than a higher form of like. It is a higher form of life.