Before you ask: yes, I am aware that it is Friday, and yes, I know I promised you guys a post yesterday, but here’s the thing. Yesterday morning, my dad and I went to a golf tournament and then my aunt came to town and we spent the day with her – long story short, I didn’t finish my schoolwork until past midnight, at which point it was no longer Thursday and I could not have kept my promise even if I wanted to!
(I didn’t want to. I was really tired.)
On the bright side, I finally finished my paper on Julius Caesar, and I’m really proud of it. I might post it, just so you guys can revel in my genius.
Anyway. I am up at 7:15 AM, writing this blog post now SPECIFICALLY so I won’t run out of time later. See how much I love you? See?
That was a really obvious segue – but, hey! It works! Today we’re talking about looooooooove.
Before we start, I want to clear up a misconception about love. Raise your hand if you think, or have ever thought, that love is just an intensification of ‘like.’ For example, when I was younger, I would have crushes on people, and if I really liked someone, I would have debates with myself: “I really like him – does that mean I love him?”
In a word: no.
I mean, yes, love obviously has feelings involved, but love is different than liking someone. When you like someone, you’re simply attracted to them. When you love someone, well. Here. I think the best way to start this is with Pope John Paul II’s definition of love.
“For love is not merely a feeling; it is an act of will that consists of preferring, in a constant manner, the good of others to the good of oneself.”
What this means is you can’t judge love by how strongly you feel. Love is on a whole new level: we can’t just like someone, we have to strive to know what is best for the other, and then make an actual commitment of our wills to bring about this “good” for the other. Love is an active decision to completely give yourself to someone else. When you love someone, you do what is best for them and what will make them happy, even if it will make you unhappy.
I’ll use another example from my preteen years (this isn’t getting embarrassing, or anything). When I was twelve or so, I had a huge crush on this one guy. One of those hopeless, desperate, I-know-this-guy-will-never-ever-like-me-in-a-million-years-never crushes. I was pretty much obsessed. Then, my twelve-year-old world was rocked when a friend of mine dropped a bombshell on me: she liked this guy, too. In that moment, I had to make a decision: do I keep liking this guy, on the off chance that he’ll like me back, or do I give him up for her? I knew that if, by some miracle, something happened between me and this guy, it would totally crush my friend. And that if I continued to like him while she liked him, too, I would start to see her as a rival. (I know that’s stupid, but I was twelve. Cut me a break.) I eventually made up my mind: I had to stop liking this guy. My friendship with my friend was more important to me. Sure, I liked him, but I love her.
That was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. Just so you know. I maintain that when you make a selfless choice for the good of someone you love, both of you benefit. Give and you shall receive, as they say.
Anyway, that was a slight tangent. Back to the topic.
In the Greek language, there are many words for love: eros, for example, is the word for romantic love. Agape is the self-giving love: the total donation of self. If you want an example of this kind of love that is easier to understand than the intricacies of my preteen love life, look at a crucifix. I don’t care if you’re not religious at all, go and look at a crucifix. Jesus Christ hung on a cross for six hours – which, by the way, is excruciatingly painful – because he loved you and wanted to save. Could you imagine? That is love. That is true, total, perfect love.
Now, if you’re thinking really critically about this, you’ll have reached a problem in all of these definitions. If love is a complete self-gift to someone else, how can you love at all? If you are giving up everything, then the act of loving someone romantically at all is kind of selfish – sure, you want the best for them, but you also love them and want to be loved. How does that make sense – to give all and yet take?
Simple explanation: obviously, real love is not one-sided. It’s not only about giving – though that is the crucial, most important part of love – it’s also about receiving. By accepting someone’s love, you are allowing someone else to give completely of themselves – which, if you think about it, is a pretty selfless thing to do.
The last thing I want to mention before I wrap this up is that love has three facets. Human beings are created for love – we were specifically designed for love – so obviously, we want to be loved, and we have attractions for people. Just because that isn’t agape love doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or somehow a twisted view of love. It’s only wrong if it exists without the self-giving: which is how the world defines love, by the way. “She’s cute, I want her for myself.” “He’s cute, I want him for myself.” That’s not how love works.
The aspects of love are as follows:
Love as attraction: recognizing the good of another person; seeing the inner and outer beauty of another person.
Love as desire: wanting a good for yourself; desiring goodness and happiness.
Love as goodwill: desiring the good of another person.
All three of these are good in themselves – recognizing inner beauty, wanting happiness, wanting what’s best for someone else. But when they’re together, they are true, self-giving, lasting love. Real love. And that’s what we want, right?
I’ll leave you all with two quotes that I really think encapsulate love.
“Love, to be real, must cost – it must hurt – it must empty us of self.” ~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“A young husband should say to his bride: ‘I have taken you in my arms and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us.” ~ St. John Chrysotom
If you liked this post, or you want to know more about this kind of thing, I recommend looking into a Theology of the Body course, or maybe just finding a book on the subject. Most of what I wrote today came from Theology of the Body for Teens by Jason & Crystalina Evert and Brian Butler. I have it as part of a class I’m taking, but I’m pretty sure you can find a book on Theology of the Body phrased in a way that’s easy to understand (because let’s face it: reading JPII straight up, while great, is not easy) and interesting to learn. Even if you’re not Catholic, it’s a good read. Also, I would look into some of Jason Evert’s stuff. He talks about love and how to find it and how to love truly and perfectly in his books. How To Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul is a really good one – but any of his stuff is good.
I really find love fascinating, and I hope it shows in this post. After all, it’s what we’re made for. And I think that’s pretty cool.