Love is not primarily a feeling, but an action, same with anger?



Love is not primarily a feeling, but an action, same with anger … or other feelings like envy, etc. God IS love. Any thoughts? Arguing with a atheist that love is not primarily a feeling, but an actions.

I shared something like this along the way:

I would agree with you that beliefs, feelings, emotions, and thoughts (in that order) precede actions. So if we truly believe and feel we are loved by God, we will act accordingly in a loving manner. But the belief and feeling of being loved, is not love itself. Love is not primarily a feeling, but an action. We can love without feeling loved.

Thank You,

He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. - 1 John 4:8


Hi Brian,

I’d agree with that. Love is not just a feeling. You might want to emphasize that English has just a single word for love, which is unusual for languages. I’d also point out that Christians hold a very deep meaning of love. Sometimes the word is used to describe more casual feelings, but that’s not what’s really being referenced here.

Hope that helps!


Interesting…but then, based on your last quote, are you saying that God is an action?

I would argue not that Love is an action, but more a state of being. The more we Love the nearer we draw to God. The nearer we draw to God, the more we become perfect in Love.
So we start from belief, or more accurately, conviction of Love and then the other things begin to align themselves with that conviction.

Just some thoughts



love is feeling and love is action or expressed in action. Anger is likewise a feeling and is also expressed in action. Feelings and actions work together and are not mutually exclusive.
Feelings result in actions and actions fuel feelings. I’m not sure why there is a need to try in split hairs between the two, feelings and actions.


I would guess hairs are being spilt because the atheist has suggested that the Church demands that people who love each other emotionally are not allowed to express their love for each other.

I know we can’t simply call love a feeling, since I love my wife even if I don’t have that feeling because I’m stressed or tired. However, we cannot ignore the often powerful feelings that arise from a strong relationship with someone else.


The split is important to avoid misconceptions about the role of feelings in morality and the Christian life.

People have posted here to express their shame at not being able to feel the same affection for God that they do for their family and friends. Others have complained about God or the Church for (in their perception) considering uncontrolled bursts of anger or sexual desire to be sinful. Those are both instances of the misconception I mentioned.

Our feelings can definitely be harnessed to promote virtue and discourage sin, but by themselves they do not possess moral value. Virtue or sin comes into the picture when we turn our wills to indulge an inappropriate feeling of anger or desire, or when we set our wills to serving God and others no matter how we feel about them.

Feelings are changeable and rarely under our control. God, who does not change, doesn’t have feelings as we understand them, yet we affirm that He is Love because His Will is always oriented to the good of His creatures (and we speak of His wrath when, in pursuit of the ultimate good of some creatures, He permits them to suffer some undesirable condition). This even applies in the human realm – I’m sure we were all warned, when we first fell in love or got married, that the feelings wouldn’t always be there but the commitment would have to remain even so. That is the difference between love as an orientation of the will and love as a mere positive feeling; the latter can certainly help the former along, but the former can remain (and ought to, in a marriage) even when the latter is temporarily weakened or even turned to the negative.



Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts…

The atheist who discussed this with me said love is purely a feeling, chemically based. It resides in the self and produces actions. I then asked, can we love without having a feeling, i think he said no… he hasn’t yet answered my question:

If you call love a mere feeling, what term do you use to describe the kind of action that puts another person before ourselves as their good is willed?

The meaning of love is so deep, as I am learning. It involves community, more than one person as love cannot be contained (Trinity); it is willing the good of the other. Love also binds us to God and our heavenly family, because God IS love. We love the beauty and goodness and love in others… and desire to be part of that love in others and see it grow.

Love also creates… we are created by love and sustained by love. Also, the love of a husband and wife creates a child. The Gospel of love, when shared and received by another, brings for the life of the other.

Those are some of my thoughts and things i’ve heard along my faith journey… Thank you for your thoughts!


Well thought through and said. Thank you!



I disagree sorry. To me Love is a feeling (not a sensation but a feeling). I have tried the path of understanding Love as an action distancing myself from feeling, and it just didn’t work for me. I have also found on my journey that the more stringent the atheist, the less feeling they seem to have, there is a numbness.

When it comes to God I would say His love is a feeling that produces the actions.


You don’t think love is a feeling?

You don’t feel something different or special or greater when you love something or someone as opposed to just liking it or not liking it at all?

To me, love is a BIG feeling! For sure!

Actions are one way to express that love, sure.
Actions are away to express all sorts of emotions.



I have found this in general…that the more “stringent” or strict and inflexible a person is, the less feelings they show–whatever the belief system. I’m not sure if they feel it less on the the inside or not, but they seem to show it less on the outside–and this includes very religious, inflexible types.

Some Atheists I know are the most emotional, feeling, heart-on-their-sleeve people I’ve ever met.


That would be great if emotional and feeling were the same thing. They are not, which is why I specifically dismissed “sensation”.


Since the tittle says, not primarily a feeling, I don’t think the OP is dismissing feelings as an aspect…I could be wrong…

I do think that one can get into a lot of “semantics” when one starts to try to define “love”…there are many other words associated with love in the daily vernacular. There is affection, good will, desire, ardent desire, even lust.

Its a little like the term “faith”. There is a lot lumped into that and it can take some time to unpack.



Sorry I should have worded that more precisely. To me love is ONLY a feeling.


So if you get into an argument with a friend do you so living them during the course of that argument, only loving them again after you’ve got that feeling back?



I have spent a great deal of time pondering what constitutes love, and to answer your question, when I was young at primary school I had a friend, and being young we did not tend to philosophize the meaning of love, we just knew what we knew, and children tend to understand some concepts better than adults. Sometimes we would fight and not talk to each other for a couple of weeks. But while that was the action, the feeling of love was still there and it produced a feeling of loss, emptiness, a void, a need for restoration.

That I believe is what constitutes the most basic concept of love, it is a feeling of distance, that which we love, we want close to us, when it becomes distant we feel loss. So eg when a loved one dies, we mourn, even though they may be in a better place. There is a sudden distance and we feel that sudden distance, and therefore we mourn.


We do not “Make Love” - Love makes us…:wink:
We cannot manufacture (make) Agape - though we can choose to embrace it. God makes it and offers it to us as a free gift.

However I understand that people use this phrase to mean a sexual act between consenting adults.

I separate “love making” acts from “love” because, as you say such things can be disordered and are not really what we are talking about. The type of Love I am talking about is Agape, a deep brotherly love. Something different from romantic love.

[quote]Nice - but remember that in arguing this, the Atheist can argue that a child can be produced by rape which is not loving. Just saying…

In such cases of rape, the act may be tending towards a higher good, but is still disordered, because there was no love shared or freely given by both individuals involved. Regardless, God may still allow for offspring, because it tends towards the higher good…

I would steer away from this as a reply to the argument.
God allows for offspring in such situations simply because we are created to reproduce.
I see no way that rape can be seen as loving. Rape is about power and greed - nothing more. If a child is produced…the child is of course innocent and a child is a good thing.
However this does not negate the evil of the act.

Those are just my quick thoughts…


How would you defend against your own argument?

Which argument is that?



We want to love the goodness, beauty, and love in others… we want to will their good, which is an action.

Consider my question…
If you call love a mere feeling, what term do you use to describe the kind of action that puts another person before ourselves as their good is willed?

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