Q&A with ‘Love Does’ author Bob Goff

New York Times bestselling author Bob Goff chats with the Chimes about purpose, love and “doing stuff.”



Bob Goff, author of New York Times best-seller Love Does, did no have strong enough grades to get into law school. He sat on a bench outside of the Dean’s office for a week until the Dean told him to go buy his books, and they let him enroll. Goff spoke on Thursday night for the conclusion of the “God, Where Are You in Culture?” series.

Lena Smith, Writer

Bob Goff, author of New York Times best-seller Love Does, didn't have strong enough grades to get into law school. He sat on a bench outside of the Dean's office for a week until the Dean told him to go buy his books, and they let him enroll. Goff spoke on Thursday night for the conclusion of the "God, Where Are You in Culture?" series. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES


How do you define love? Can you give a definition of what love is to you personally?

I don’t know that it lends itself to a definition for me. It’s more of a bunch of activities. When I think of love, I think of the activities that feel like love. It’s not like saying the words ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.’ If I did that with sweet Maria [Goff’s wife], by the hundredth ‘I love you,’ she’d be like, ‘Buddy, is that all the game you’ve got?’

It’s about finding more nuanced ways to let people know how much you care. Often times, it’s not the words. We don’t have canned stuff. We don’t need more information. We need more passion. We need more authenticity.

When did you come to this realization? In our culture, words mean a lot of things. Was there a moment in time when you first recognized that love was about action and not simply words?

I think it emerges over time. One thing that happens for each of us at different times is that we realize we are not our parents. You’re not your worst mistake. You’re not defined by your big success either. We’re defined by something else. And that bigger something else is our life. You’re the sum of all you do, not all the stuff you compare and say you believe. You want your report card on what you believe? Find the person you disagree with the most and see how you treat them. There’s your report card.

That’s not my idea. That’s Jesus’ [idea]. I think it keeps us really humble. There are people I disagree with all the time. And I want to be right. I think what’s happened over time as love as a concept has emerged, is that I’ve become more humble. I’m a lawyer. Even when I’m wrong, I think I’m right. I try to be humble.

And then, realize everyone else is on their path. I don’t know if I’m ahead or behind — I don’t measure anymore. I just stay fixed on Jesus.

Do you think people’s notion or understanding of love changes with each generation?

I love your generation. Whenever people come to my house, everybody that’s there is your age. They ask me, ‘Do you know anybody that’s your age, Bob?’ And I say, ‘No, they don’t do stuff.’ There are a couple of exceptions, but you guys actually get stuff done. You actually want to do stuff. You believe it to be true, you’re getting authentic with it and you go do stuff. That inspires me. I think the pattern throughout Scripture is older brothers and older sisters helping younger brothers and younger sisters. But the way you help people isn’t by giving them a bunch of opinions. Give them a bunch of love. Go do stuff together. It’s been a beautiful path for me to know people who are college-aged that want to do stuff. They want to move away from just agreeing with Jesus. No more Bible studies. Bible doings.

We live in a culture that’s driven by the desire for stability and success and planning. When people have a desire to practice this radical love but are caught up and even paralyzed by the need for stability and security, how would you encourage them to practice that same generosity?

In the morning, I can’t have a quiet time because I’m amped. I make coffee nervous. But I read Scripture in the morning and I ask, ‘What does this mean to me?’ And then I’ve got a picture of the cosmos on my iPhone. I look at it. I’m no astronomer, but I look at it and say, ‘What’s the closest thing to eternity? What’s forever?’

You know those moments when you’re laying on your back and looking at the stars and you think, ‘Wow, I’m so small compared to all of that’? For some people, that moment comes when they’re diagnosed with leukemia. It’s having a loved one die. It gives them a moment to say, ‘Yikes,’ and reorder everything. But what if we could do that in small ways with no drama?

Compare your student loans to eternity. The stuff that’s chafing you the most, just compare that to eternity. It isn’t like you’re going to blow them off and not pay them. But compare them to your purpose. What leaks out for me is purpose. I want to be purposeful and intentional. Yeah, I’ll pay off my loans. Yeah, I’ll get a job. But it’ll feel like a day job. It won’t feel like a career anymore. It’s just a day job. I’m a pretty good lawyer. Actually, I’m an awfully good lawyer. But I decided that I was going to do the stuff that [fit] the person I was turning in to.

You don’t have to channel your parents anymore. If you have awesome parents and they’re speaking words of truth to you, awesome. Chisel it in stone. If they’re not telling you who you’re becoming, find some people who know you. Know truth. Stare at eternity. Compare where you are to that and make some moves. I don’t know anything about chess, but take the smallest piece on the board and move it forward. That’s what I would do. If I was a senior graduating from Biola, I would take the smallest piece and move it one square forward. Then keep doing what you’ve purposed to do.

I carry this ball cap around with me. I haven’t even been to a baseball game. Isn’t that crazy? I’ve got to go to one of these one day. But I have my routine in the morning and then I go to this place where I work. And when I do what I’m intending to do, I put my ball cap on and do it. And then, when I go make a ham sandwich, I take my hat off and go do whatever I’m going to do. And then when I get back to what I intended to do, I put the cap back on. And my goal is to have hat hair at the end of the day. So [find] whatever the prompt is that helps you get back to, ‘What’s my purpose?’

Hopefully that will change over time. If this stuff is true about being a new creation, hopefully it’ll change over time. If everything is the same, then you’re not a new creation. Lean into that. I know it’s scary. Don’t listen to people who give you advice that rhymes or reads like a Hallmark card. 

Be inspired. Live [an inspired] life. You’ll do a great job at what other people call a career and what you call your day job.” 

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