Understanding True Love - a Bible-based lesson series for teens

"Young Enough to Know Better"Guy Penrod

Lesson 1: What is Love?


happy teen coupleDuring high school, I dated a lot of guys and I was hurt a lot. I was a very vulnerable girl because I wanted someone to love me. I wanted someone to truly care about me. The problem was finding the right person to love and have them appreciate and enjoy my love.

When I got into college I had no intentions of getting married or falling in love. I felt like, "I’m going to have a good time. I’m going to experience a lot and I’m not going to get myself tied down to any one person or any one thing. In other words, I’m starting on a clean slate. It’s just going to be good wholesome relationships, fun and finding out what being in college is all about."

I was very vulnerable because I wanted someone to love me

I was doing well until I met Joe. I don’t believe that there is any such thing as love at first sight, but at that time I was a romantic teenager, and when I saw him for the first time I thought he was super. He had a dynamite personality and a lot of charm. When he finally asked me out, I was beside myself.

On our first date we talked a lot and tried real hard to impress each other. A month went by before he called and asked me for another date. I think he knew by then that I wanted to date him. He played on this and from that time on things were pretty heavy.

Our relationship really didn’t start off on the right foot because we were trying to impress each other. I didn’t want him to go out with anybody else but me. I don’t think at that point I neglected any of my standards or morals, but I did do things to impress him and to encourage a relationship with him.

We dated and had some pretty serious talks. We had some pretty bad fights too. He picked on me and teased me a lot. I tried to cover up my hurt feelings when he would do this. I tried to laugh along with it, but I did get hurt. Often at parties he would just walk off and leave me. He didn’t give me any special attention and that hurt me.

At that point, I realized that it was mostly a one-sided relationship, so I started working real hard to make him feel the same way I felt. This is what got me into trouble. I worked too hard at it. I started to do things that I knew he wanted—anything that would please him. This included some heavy sexual things. I thought, “If I don’t, he’s going to go somewhere else and I don’t want to lose him.”

Time went on and we ended up going to bed together and doing things that I knew were not right, but I sacrificed my morals to keep him. This is the biggest mistake a young girl can make. She thinks if she keeps doing what a guy wants to do, he is going to be crazy about her, but it’s not true.

I know Joe lost respect for me. And I lost so much respect for myself that it was awful. Because of my Christian background, I died a hundred times in my own guilt. But I could not bring myself to say, “Forgive me, Lord,” because I knew in the back of my mind I was going to do it again. I was going to do anything I had to do to keep him.

At this point, if I can say anything to young girls, it is this—when you get into the dating game, find a fellow you know is a Christian—one who isn’t ashamed to say, “I’m a Christian and I do have morals myself.” I know that it is kind of daring to date the guys you know are not Christians, the ones who are kind of wild. But stay away from these guys because you are going to lose something precious along the way.

Joe and I were having problems in our dating relationship. We fought a lot. He picked at me constantly, and I got hurt a lot. I tried to explain to him the guilt I felt about sleeping with him. I tried to stop it, but he just wouldn’t accept it.

You cannot change a person no matter how much you love them

I had evaluated our relationship and to put it bluntly, it stunk! He did not treat me right at all. But I thought, in the back of my mind, "If we get married, everything is going to be different. He is going to love me and take care of me." This was a big mistake on my part. You cannot change a person and make them love you, no matter how much you try, and no matter how much you love them.

You can take your dating relationship and magnify it about ten or twenty times, and that is what your marriage is going to be like. Television, books, movies, songs—all these make you think you can pull another trick out of your sleeve to make everything great. Marriage is tough. Even when two people really love each other and both are working at it, it is still tough.

If I had magnified our relationship ten times or even five times, I would have seen that in the future Joe was going to go out on me. He was going to slip around with other girls, he was going to lose his temper, he was going to hit me, he was not going to treat me like a wife and he was not going to take the responsibility of being a husband.

couple getting married

But I did not do this. I moved quickly. We ran off and got married. I do not blame my running off and getting married on anyone but myself, because I knew that I should not do this. But at that moment, I made a decision without a whole lot of thinking. I decided if I don’t do this, I am going to lose him. What I should have decided was that if he can’t wait for me and do it my way, then it’s not worth it. But my emotions were in complete control and my thinking was not clear at all. I was very confused. I did not want to be hurt. But I jumped into it, not knowing that it would be the biggest hurt of my life.

When we told our parents, they were very hurt and very disappointed. I quit college so I could put him through college. I took any job I could get. I was a waitress. I worked at a cocktail lounge at night, which was awful. I worked as a sales clerk. I did all kinds of jobs to keep us going.

Our marriage was just nothing. He did not love me. It was me loving him and trying to make him love me, trying desperately to please him, sacrificing my own feelings, but it didn’t work. It couldn’t work. You cannot make someone love you. They either love you or they don’t. I lived in constant fear that he was going to go out and find somebody else and he did exactly that. I didn’t want to admit it, because I wanted our marriage to work.

baby girl

Five months after we were married, I became pregnant and had a beautiful little girl. That changed things for awhile. He was very excited about having the baby. But a month after the baby was born, things slipped back into what they were before—him losing his temper, leaving me alone with the baby all the time, and me carrying the load, trying to raise a child and support our family.

We were married three years when things happened which made me realize that he did not love me, that he never would love me, that he was not a good father, and that he was not a responsible husband. I couldn’t handle it any more, so we were divorced.

God and guy grasping hands, in relationship

As I look back I see where I made many mistakes. My first and foremost mistake was that I did not accept and maintain a steady relationship with God. If I had done that, I would not have found myself in the position I was in. God’s love is free and His love is like no other love you could ever experience in your life because it’s whole. There’s nothing lacking in the love that God can give you. Don’t ever believe that you can live without love because you can’t. You cannot count on people around you to give you that love either, but you can count on God. He is always there, and He never changes.

Another mistake was starting off in such a hurry. This seems to be the popular thing to do these days. You think, "Well, I like him and he likes me. Maybe we are in love. Why don’t we just go ahead and see if this sex business will work out for us if we really like it." You end up skipping over the part where you are really good friends. This was what was missing in my relationship with Joe. There was no respect and friendship. He did not respect me and I did not respect him. There was no friendship there.

couple broken up

Another mistake was getting involved sexually when I had no business doing it. I was not married. I was not old enough or mature enough to face the consequences of a sexual relationship. Just because you have all the necessary parts to have a sexual relationship with someone does not mean that you are ready to get into it. It’s not just a physical act—it involves all your emotions. You can truly mess up your emotions by getting involved when you are not ready. It is something that should be held sacred for marriage.

If you go back to the basics in what a relationship is all about, you will see that you should have friendship first, and secondly, that you are both Christians. Out of that can grow respect and love. And God helps maintain that love. From there you go to dating and being serious and then later getting married.

— Learned too late


The writer of this true story was seeking love. It is only natural to want someone to love you and someone you can love in return. This is especially true of young people.

If you are in high school or college, the chances are that you are in love with someone right now, or think you might be. But there are many wrong concepts about love.

Many people confuse infatuation with real love. Others think that "love at first sight" is the real thing. Still others do not know the difference between lust and love, or between sexual attraction and love.

What is infatuation and how does it affect you? What is the difference between lust and love? What is sexual attraction? What is real love? Let us consider these important questions.

What is an Infatuation?

definition of infatuation

An infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by an attraction to someone. The dictionary calls it "being blindly in love." In other words, you are so carried away by this attraction that you don’t know what you are doing.

Infatuation is not true love

One involved in a romantic infatuation usually cannot think of anything or anyone else other than the person he or she is "in love" with. An infatuation is an exciting experience—an emotional high—but it never lasts long because it is NOT true love.

One of the signs of an infatuation is that you tend to idolize the person you think you are in love with. Everything he or she says or does seems just perfect to you. You do not see his or her flaws. Other people can see plenty of "danger signals," but you can’t see them because you are "blindly in love." Your romantic feelings have taken over and you are not using ordinary good sense.

When you are involved in a romantic infatuation, you tend to be disorganized. You are not yourself. You are irresponsible and you tend to neglect your duties.

Sometimes young people will daydream and "laze" around, not doing their duties. Someone will ask, "What’s the matter with you, Caroline? You are not yourself." Caroline will smile sweetly and say, "Oh, I’m in love."

No, she isn’t! She is infatuated. If she was in love and her love was the real thing, she would be concerned about doing her duties, preparing and planning for her future.

Most infatuations do not last long. What does last is the bitter fruit of wrongdoing committed during the infatuation. Remember, when you are infatuated, you do not use common sense. Your romantic feelings are in control. When this happens, you can do some things that you will regret the rest of your life.

The Fruit of an Infatuation

Debbie was infatuated with Larry. He was handsome, and the fact that he was a football hero made him all the more appealing to her.

Then one day the thing she had dreamed of actually happened. Larry phoned to ask her for a date. She was thrilled!

When he arrived and she asked where they were going, he gave a vague answer. They drove out to a lonely place and parked. He told her how much he "loved" her.

teen girl feeling distraught

Before long things were getting out of hand, but she didn’t stop him. She thought, "A little experience won’t hurt me." That "little experience" turned out to be "going all the way."

Later, Debbie said, "It was awful. I was so scared. I didn’t feel any thrill at all. I kept thinking, ‘What if someone should drive up and see us?’ Within a few minutes I was putting on my blouse and hating myself for throwing away something precious on a guy who didn’t care about me—and one whom I didn’t care about either."

What is Lust?

What is lust?

Lust gets

Lust is an intense desire to satisfy one’s sexual appetite. Lust often goes under the name of "love," but lust and love are two entirely different things.

Lust is SELFISH—the emphasis is on getting something. Lust demands immediate satisfaction. Lust says, "I want it for my own pleasure, I want it regardless of the consequences, and I want it now."

What is Love?

definition of love

Love gives

Love is UNSELFISH—the emphasis is on giving. Love wants what is best for the other person. Love is willing to wait. Real love will wait for the right time and the right circumstances.

The Bible gives examples of both lust and love. Amnon, one of King David’s sons, thought that he was madly in love with Tamar, his half-sister. He desired her so much that he was literally sick. One of his evil friends suggested a plan so Amnon could get Tamar alone. Amnon carried out this plan and forced Tamar to have sex with him.

What happened next? He no longer cared for her. In fact, he hated her. Amnon’s "love" was not love at all. It was lust.

On the other hand the Bible tells of the love which Jacob had for Rachel. Jacob had to work for Rachel’s father seven long years in order to obtain Rachel as his wife. Jacob was willing to work and wait for Rachel because his love was the real thing. The Bible says that the seven years "seemed unto him but a few days" because of the love he had for her.

What is Sexual Attraction?

couple attracted to each other

Sexual attraction is physical attraction between a fellow and a girl. We are built with a sex drive which causes us to be interested in the opposite sex. There is nothing wrong or sinful about this. God made us that way. Sin comes when we attempt to satisfy our sexual drive in the wrong way.

To be sexually attracted to someone does NOT mean that you are in love with that person. A fellow sees a girl with a beautiful figure and he says, "Wow!" A girl sees a handsome football player and her heart skips a beat or two. Is that love? No, it’s simply physical attraction between a fellow and a girl.

Movies, television, magazines, and books constantly bombard us with this idea: "Find someone who turns you on…if you have a good sex life, that’s all that matters." The campus beauty queen marries the former captain of the football team and everybody sighs and says, "What a handsome couple!" But in a short while, their marriage is broken. Why? Because there was no real love between them. They were just sexually attracted to each other and had little in common besides that. They soon became bored with each other.

Remember, sexual attraction is not love. There is a vital place in marriage for sexual attraction, but a marriage cannot be built on sexual attraction alone. There are couples by the thousands who could not or did not resist sexual involvement before they were married, but now they cannot stand to touch each other.

What is REAL Love?

teen coupleReal love has many qualities. Love ordinarily does contain the magical element of physical attraction. But it is a lot more than that. Love has its roots in friendship. In true love, you love the total person. You enjoy being with that person and sharing things with them.

Real love is unselfish.

It will sacrifice for the one it loves. Love carries with it the vital quality of commitment. It does not give up or quit when problems come along.

Real love brings out the best in you.

You want the one you love to be proud of you. If you are just infatuated with someone, you may "laze" around and daydream, but if your love is real, you apply yourself to your work, you make plans, and you prepare for the future.

Real love is not just a wonderful feeling that strikes you suddenly. It takes time to grow and develop. Some of the popular songs in the world of music give the wrong impression that falling in love with someone at first sight is real love.

Real love grows over time.

You don’t "fall" into real love—you grow into it. You have to know a person before you can love that person with real love. It is impossible to truly know someone at first sight, and it is also impossible to have real love for someone at first sight. You may be attracted to someone at first sight. You may even be "turned on" by someone at first sight. But you cannot genuinely love a person whom you do not really know.

Satan does not want you to know and experience true love. That is why he promotes all kinds of false love. He wants you to get involved in sex outside of marriage. He wants to generally mess up your life so that you think life is not worth living.

Precious Love

God loves you supremely and desires only what is best for you. He wants you to have precious love—not cheap sex. If it is His will for you to be married, He has just the right person for you. He wants you to have a mate who loves you unselfishly and is committed to you for life. And He likewise wants you to be committed to that person for life. He wants your home to be a little bit of heaven on earth.

In the little town of West Point, Mississippi, a beautiful marriage of twenty-five years ended in a most dramatic way. The devoted wife of the local newspaper editor walked out of the evening service at her church. She smiled happily and spoke to her friends and then fell dead on the church lawn. Emergency efforts to revive her were of no avail.

To her friends and husband, it seemed as though she had walked out of church straight into Heaven. The little city was stunned. Letters poured in to the bereaved husband, for she was warmly loved and admired.

One day, after the funeral, her husband, Henry Harris, wrote a long, heartfelt tribute to his wife. Here is what Mr. Harris wrote of his lovely wife:

"She walked right out of church, and right into Heaven.

"As one friend expressed it, she came to West Point to go to the church, and she left from the church.

"I remember when she graduated from the Mississippi State College for Women and came to West Point to become assistant to the pastor. Actually she looked upon her work in West Point as temporary. She was convinced that the Lord was calling her to become a foreign missionary…but the Lord was giving me a different message. I knew she was the girl for me. Later that same year, I nervously asked her to become Mrs. Henry Harris….

"One year to the day after that proposal, we became man and wife. There’s absolutely no doubt that God’s will was done. There was never a happier marriage. Some more ‘modern’ couples will find this hard to believe, but for over twenty-five years, we never had an argument. Surely, there must have been some disagreements; but now, in looking back across those wonderful years, I cannot recall a single one of consequence.

"I know that the coming weeks and months will be extremely hard. There will be times when I’ll have to find a quiet place and let the tears flow. There is nothing wrong with that. But Heaven is dearer because Wanda is there waiting. And I still have part of her in our four wonderful children.

vase of roses

"Every year, I added another long-stemmed red rose to those I sent to her. There were twenty-five in the last bouquet. Then, on Tuesday, I told the florist to cover the coffin with red roses and put an urn at each end, filled with red roses. You see, they’ll have to last for a time…til we are together again.

"I don’t believe a day passed in twenty-five years that I didn’t tell her that I loved her. And yet, I don’t believe she ever knew just how MUCH she meant to me, and how much I truly loved her…And while I can’t keep telling her of my love every day, I can keep thanking God for letting one of His truly precious ones share this portion of my life.

"As I have said before…in trying feebly to pay tribute to a departed friend…but never more meaningful than now… ‘Thank God for memories!’"

That is precious love! What young person would not want such a marriage as this? Such a marriage can be yours if you seek God’s will, find it, and follow it.