Monday, May 18, 2015

Two Things Love is Not

I’ve spent the last five weeks of reading reflections talking about love. What is it. How it animates our faith. How it should permeate everything that we do. Now it’s time to talk about what love is not.

It’s easy to assume that we know the full meaning of a word just because we can use it in a sentence. You can’t make that assumption with the word “love”.

And let’s exclude romantic love, and loving God, just to make the discussion simpler. Let’s just talk about loving someone as another human being.

There are two common fallacies about love that I think need addressing in light of John’s first epistle.

Fallacy # 1: Love is about how I feel.

Love is not just a feeling. To love someone, really love them, takes a lot of hard work, and there may come times when loving someone no longer makes you feel good.

For example, when a pregnant woman is put on bed rest, her husband takes up a lot of work that she would ordinarily do - because she simply can’t do it without posing serious risks to her health and that of their unborn child.

I suspect that he doesn’t experience a lot of warm fuzzy feelings when he’s rubbing her back until his own back hurts, or when he’s cleaning toilets, or watching the kids while she’s passed out in the recliner. (Though, I’m pretty sure she does.) He does these things because he loves her, and desires for her what is the best thing for her.

At its deepest levels, loving someone becomes so profound that you stop noticing how much work you’re doing for it. That may be why it is that it is so much more strongly associated with the feeling than how much effort it is.

If you love someone, it doesn’t always make you feel good.

Consider St. Monica:
Of course she loved her son Augustine all of those years while she prayed for him to return to the church, but think of how she suffered while he was separated from the Church. If love were about feelings, she’d have done what she could to forget about his theological faults a long time before he came back to the Church.

Fallacy #2: Loving someone means supporting them, no matter what.

If you love someone, you will not affirm their destructive decisions. Love is not affirming every decision made by everyone you care about. In fact, love should refuse to affirm some decisions. Love means having the courage to tell someone you care about that they are doing something destructive - physically destructive (like abusing alcohol), mentally destructive (like remaining in an abusive relationship), eternally destructive (like living in a life of sin).

If you think you can, in good conscience, affirm every decision your friends make, either your only friend is Jesus (and you’re not doing it the way he said, so you’re being a bad friend to him) or you're missing something. Every fallen human person has inclinations to do things that are destructive to either themselves or others.

If you love someone, there will come times when you have to object to one or another of their decisions - it’s just a simple fact about how we are.

These were the first two fallacies about love that came to my mind - the most common ones in our culture, I think. What other fallacies about love have you encountered?

No comments:

Post a Comment