(c) Doug Slagle, Minister to the Gathering at Northern Hills, All Rights Reserved

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Many of us know the story of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  It may be the most famous story ever written about the power of love.  I won’t describe it in lot of detail, but it tells of a teenage guy and a teenage girl who are each from families that hate one another.

Romeo is persuaded by friends to attend a dance party so that he can meet a girl he really likes.  This party is held by the family that hates Romeo’s family – but he decides to go anyway hoping the girl he likes is there.

At the dance, he doesn’t meet that girl, but sees instead Juliet – who is a member of the hated family.  Romeo and Juliet, who meet for the first time, are immediately smitten.  They talk, laugh and flirt.  A cousin of Juliet sees Romeo, however, and realizes he’s from the hated family.  He attacks Romeo and throws him out of the party.

But Romeo is so taken with Juliet that he sneaks back into her yard hoping to see her again.  He sees her on an upstairs balcony and she’s very happy.  She’s smiling, talking to herself, and saying how much she loves Romeo.  She doesn’t care that he’s from the hated family.  She will love him anyway and she pledges to be with him no matter what.  Hearing her say these things, Romeo tells Juliet he loves her and asks her to marry him.  She says yes and the two get married the next day by a sympathetic Minister.

Juliet’s cousin meanwhile challenges Romeo to a fight.  Even though he didn’t want to fight this guy, Romeo ends up killing him.  When Juliet’s father hears this, he tells the police to make Romeo leave the city forever.  The father also orders Juliet to marry another guy.  Juliet runs away and asks the Minister what to do.

The Minister gives Juliet a sleeping pill to take just before she is marry the other guy.  She’ll then appear as if she’s dead – so her dad can’t force her to get married.  She takes the pill and falls into a deep sleep.

Romeo, like everyone else, doesn’t know she’d only taken a sleeping pill.  He thinks that she’s dead.  Romeo is so upset the girl of his dreams has died that he decides to kill himself too.  He drinks poison and dies.

When Juliet wakes up, she sees that Romeo is dead.  She is so upset she kills herself with a sword!

The story ends when the two families find Romeo and Juliet dead and learn that they had secretly gotten married.  The families decide to stop fighting and forgive each other – in honor of the two lovers.

My telling of the story leaves out most of the romantic parts.  Even though it’s a great story that people have enjoyed for four hundred years,  

it’s not very realistic.  Do people really fall so passionately in love and get married in only one day?  I don’t think so.  What Romeo and Juliet felt was powerful, but it wasn’t reasonable, and it wasn’t yet real love.  I think they were instead infatuated with each other.  Like many of us have experienced, they first saw each and really liked what they saw.  They were physically attracted to one another.  They flirted and laughed, but it wasn’t true love they felt.  They felt infatuation – which is mostly a feeling of attraction to a person’s looks, status or wealth.

Real love doesn’t happen overnight.  Real love wants to spend lots of time getting to know the other person.  Real love comes from calmly thinking about her or him – their personality and their character.  Real love understands the flaws in the other one, but loves them anyway.  Real love makes you feel peaceful.

Infatuation, on the other hand, makes you feel like you’re drunk.  Infatuation is not rational.  It wrongly thinks the other person is totally perfect without giving much thought to that.  Infatuation happens very quickly and ends pretty fast too.

Most of us think about somebody we first like with a combination of being cool and being an idiot at the same time.  We use our intelligence but our attractions distract us.  In many ways, our brain is divided when it comes to falling in love with someone – one brain side thinks, the other side doesn’t think – it only feels.

Watch with me now what I think is a very funny video about love and our divided brains:

That’s a great video to help us think about the power of fake love – or  what I call infatuation – versus the power of real love that thinks.  The guy’s brain is torn between wanting to do all the nice things that build real love.  But his hormones, his attraction, and his infatuation with the girl take over.  

The video also gets at what John Legend wrote in his song “All of Me”.  Legend has a divided brain for the person he wrote the song about.  His head is spinning, he’s on a magical mystery ride, he’s dizzy, his head’s under water, and he does not know what hit him.  He’s very attracted to someone.

But he’s also trying his best to think clearly.  He’s attracted to her curves – or her looks.  But he also loves her edges – the things about her that aren’t perfect even though, as he sings, he loves her imperfections.  When we really love someone, we love all of them – the good and the not so good.

What I hope we each do – especially you young people – is that we think about the difference between infatuation and real love.  We would not be human if we do not feel a wonderful high when we are first attracted to someone.  But that’s not love.  It might eventually become real love – but only with time and patience spent listening to and getting to know the other person.

I’ve talked in my messages this February about love.  Two weeks ago I talked about unconditional love.  Don’t judge someone you love.  Forgive them when they do something that hurts you.  Love them just the way they are.

Last week I talked about loving yourself.  And I quoted Ru Paul, the famous drag queen, who tells people, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?”  We shouldn’t judge ourselves too harshly and should do, instead, what Buddhists say: be gentle with ourselves.

For today, I hope you will think about what real romantic love is.  Infatuation is all about right now.  I’m attracted to you and I want to make out with you now!  That is not love.

Real love is all about staying power.  It wants to be together for many, many years.  It is patient, gentle and plans for a future together.

And so, three ideas I have for us this February month of love:  1) Love and serve other people no matter what they do or don’t do.  2) Love and accept yourself.  And, 3) when you feel like you’re attracted to someone, enjoy that feeling, but know it isn’t love.  Instead, stop, think, and appreciate them for their character, their personality, and the possibility of spending time getting to know her or him…..and only then falling into real love.

Peace to each of you!