Tuesday, August 26, 2008

when love is not a decision

When love is not a decision, all sorts of indescribable human vices are entertained...intertwined. Emotions out of control. Pain turned inward. Pain turned outward. Emptiness seeking respite. Sophistry becomes its answer. When love is not altruistic—when love is not for the ultimate good of the other and toward the glorification of God, love is simply not love.

This is a thought experiment. Is it true? I invite your comments.


Anonymous said...

What do you mean by a "thought experiment"?

In the past I have protested against the extreme side of "LOve is a decision" talk I've heard. That side always sounded to me like people were saying, If I don't like you or whatever, I'll try to love you anyway because I'm supposed to. Something in me turns and says, "No thanks I'd rather be like than have that kind of love"

However I get a sense what you're portraying here is the results of selfish attitudes.

Your style of writing here is sharp and captivating.

espíritu paz said...

Thanks for the response Peaceful.

Thought experiment is basically--the assertion I just made--I don't know if the thoughts are exactly correct. I state them anyway as a starting point and may change the language in the future. It's sort of like a theory in the process of becoming a law.

I hadn't thought of "love as a decision" principle being used improperly in the way that you described.

Simply when love does not include an element of altruistic decision, it is purely selfish, hormonal, or all feeling--which is quite transient.

Anonymous said...

I have come to the point where I can only think of love as a decision, as much from linguistic accuracy than anything else. When it is (just) an emotion, it is infatuation, admiration, opinion or something else but it is not love.

If I say, "I love my father." This does not mean that I always feel a certain way. Sometimes my father does things I do not understand... behaviors that I believe are self-destructive. I do not admire him during these times; in fact I am disappointed, yet I love. What else could I call my relationship to him? I have an adequate vocabulary and I can think of nothing other than parental "love."

The same can be true of romantic love. Emotions that last "forever" is the stuff of songs; a commitment to love is something else in practice if not in the public imagination. People change. Emotions are fickle. A commitment to love, however, can last a lifetime... I do not know what else to call that relationship other than married "love."

It is more than a decision, more than an emotion, more than a commitment, it is something of all of them yet not fully expressed in them.

Now, can this apply to enemies, strangers or the ordinary acquaintance? I think it is a virtue that can be nurtured over time. Each of us is capable of becoming such a person. No one accidentally becomes such a person. Love is a commitment that we learn to keep through a commitment to learn it.

I can find someone to be a repugnant example of human vice, and still love. Love does not negate truth, it is a stance we take in relationship with the other in the presence of truth. It is the stance of the Lord to each of us, it is the source of his grace to us and can be the source of our grace to the other.


Or so is my theory...

It might take a lifetime to complete the experiment.



Anonymous said...

I will take the liberty to respond though I'm not sure if it will be appreciated.

I don't think it's possible to decide to, from a certain moment onwards, love someone. At least I doubt I could 'decide' to love someone like that, as like the flick of a button. Seems very black and white. All or nothing.

I think love is something that grows over time. Bit like a plant grows out of a seed, which needs a good soil and environment, and be nurtured and taken care of, before it is strong and can take care of itself.

Attraction, on the other hand, can happen instantaneously. I agree that it doesn't mean much though and is ephemeral.

Love is limited to only a few special people. I suppose one could say that if you love everyone equally, then you love no one: love loses its special meaning in that case and becomes 'standard'. Good can't exist without bad.

Your observation that love is altruistic is spot on; that doesn't necessarily mean that there can not also be a component of self-interest though, but the altruistic part should most certainly dominate.

I agree with Peacefullady; if anyone would decide to love me 'because they have to', i.e. because it's written in the bible, then I'd rather they didn't bother at all. I'd probably even be offended if I found out that's their motivation for (attempting to) love me; I think it would actually feel more like being tolerated than loved. Probably enough reason for me to disappear out of that persons life, as it would make both feel better: me for not having to feel like being tolerated, the other for not having to make an effort to tolerate. Win-win situation.

Your original statement implies that non-christians are not able to love. Some might find that implication offensive. Example, many non-christian mothers love their child more than their own lives. That's pretty strong love. I'm also reasonably sure a few people love me and I love them. The above two examples couldn't be explained if your original thought experiment/theory is correct. Unless one would introduce different degrees of 'love'. Which brings me back to my original point: your statement seems very black and white to me.

As to loving one's enemies, I'm aware of where that comes from and I disagree with it. The actions of many people who call themselves 'christian' imply that they don't really believe it themselves either, as actions speak louder than words. Then again, there's also the odd person (e.g. Dirk Willems) who actually lived it out. But that's the exception that confirms the rule, I suppose.

Bit off-topic, but loving someone (=active) is relatively easy. I think it is much harder to allow oneself to be loved. One probably needs to love oneself in the first place before you will be able to allow someone else to love you. But haven't figured that one fully out myself yet though.

Apart from the above things I agree 100% with the thought experiment. :)

But, I'm certainly not an expert in this matter and can always use a little bit more wisdom.


Anonymous said...