I was recently asked if I had ever been in love. Like most teenagers would say, I answered yes. Now, I know that I am a slight romantic and quick to draw out big words with big meanings like the word love, but even still I am hesitant to devote myself towards someone. Once you’re with that one someone, there goes guys’ night every night, dancing with as many girls as possible at parties, and flirting with cute girls in class. Commitment means giving up a part of your life. And in a committed relationship, both parties are expected to give up part of their lives to be part of each other’s. So why are young people so anxious to be in committed relationships-in love- with each other at such a young age with so much to experience? There is no doubt of the allure of a relationship- companionship. But are the ideas of companionship and love so intoxicating that teenagers are defenseless against it? Myself, like almost every other teenager, had fallen victim to the subtle but important difference between the idea of love and the ideal of love. I said I loved someone when I would do anything for them. I would drive across town on their break at work to bring them Cheerwine, or I would stick my own neck out to get in trouble so that their slate would stay clean. We call that being in love. But the simple truth is that people cannot own people. We are all independent, and we are free to do as we please. The ideas of duty, responsibility, and obedience are choices. Everything is a choice. Even the ideal of love is a choice. However, it is not the choice to do anything for someone and care for them- though that is a part of it- it is much more than that. Love as an ideal is sharing a relationship with someone without impeding their life to a degree that they feel obligated or mandated to give up a part of it. Love is walking with someone through life, though not always physically every day. Love is patient because real love knows that it isn’t about receiving what you feel like you need from a relationship, but it is giving the other person what they need while knowing that you will not always receive the same treatment back. Sometimes people need space in relationships. That is no sign of a lack of love, merely a sign of abundance in experiences. The ideal of love is simple: just be. We fall victim to the idea of love presented by our culture that two people compromise to be together. While in the ideal of love, there will be compromises-though they come not from a feeling of duty, but from a feeling of graceful giving. The ideal of love is agape: unconditional, patient, giving, and graceful love. This is the love present in higher realms by the force around us that Christians call God, Buddhists call Dharma, Muslims call Allah, Jews call Yahweh, and I call you. We are not only subject to this force, but we are part of this force. The reason for relationships is not for the western idea of ownership of a person, but for the living and loving-ideally loving- each other and sharing experiences together with the regard that while we are young, there are many experiences that the other must partake in without the other. The idea of love can set hearts on fire, but an emotional fire that can spread to the mind and to the eyes and ears. The idea of love leads to jealousy. The ideal of love gives a heart a match to hope with, a freshly cool breeze for the mind, and patience to the feet.