Sunday, February 15, 2015
Love, and other things like it
Love is when you want the best for someone.
When you love yourself, you want the best for yourself. We all want the best for ourselves. This is why Jesus could say, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Seriously. Even suicide victims want the best for themselves. They want to end the pain. No matter how misguided they may be, or how much they think they hate themselves, at the end of the day, they are doing what they do out of self-interest (aka self love). Otherwise, they would think of others, and then they would realize that others are hurt when people kill themselves, and then they would refrain from doing it (unless they really want to hurt others, in which case they derive some sort of sick pleasure from the thought of the hurt they will cause and thus it still comes back to an act of self-gratification).
Love is wanting the best for someone. The amazing, divine, miraculous thing about love is this: when it works right, you want the best for the person you love, and then when that person gets the best, you are filled with joy and delight and satisfaction. Ultimately, the best for someone else turns into the best for you, because it brings you such great fulfillment because of your deep love. This is the opposite of a downward spiral. It is an upward spiral, and it comes from the Lord.
Compassion, sympathy and empathy are like love, or parts of love.
Compassion literally means to feel along with someone, except usually it connotes joining others in feelings of sorrow. You are affected by their sadness; you become sad because they are sad, and you long to do something to alleviate their sadness. A compassionate person longs to help others.
Sympathy means very nearly the same thing as compassion, except that it has roots in Greek while compassion has its roots in Latin. Otherwise, they are virtually the same word. Sympathy may (for some people) be less strongly associated with sorrow, specifically, and may encompass some other emotions, although usually the more negative ones: anger, jealousy, fear. A sympathetic person commiserates with others.
Empathy is similar; it means a sharing of feelings. However, empathy encompasses a sharing of all feelings, from joy to sorrow and everything in between. An empathetic person shares the gamut of emotions with others; an empathetic person is very understanding.
Love encompasses all of these. Love weeps with those who weep, and tries to comfort them. Love listens and understands. Love rejoices with those who rejoice (love is not envious).
However, mature love sometimes applies compassion and empathy to the future. When this happens, it is not always perceived as love. When a child wants yet more candy, and the mother says, "No," the child does not perceive this as love but as hate. The mother knows that if the child continues to eat candy, he will soon vomit, and she cuts off his supply in sympathy and compassion, even bearing the brunt of his anger, because she does not want him to be sick.
When someone older and wiser applies hard won life knowledge to a situation to try to save an underling from pain in the long term, the underling is often very upset. This is called "tough love," and it is, indeed, love, although the benefactor gets few thanks, and none in the short term.
God has to do this more than any of us, because He is so infinitely wiser than we. We want what we want, but He knows what is best for us, and He empathetically wants to give us the best, knowing full well the joy it will produce in the end. We do not like the way things look to us in the short term, in the near view. We get angry and accuse God of many things. We think He is not loving. We think He is not fair. We think He is not kind.
And that is where faith begins. Faith begins when we believe in His love and trust Him to do best, regardless of what we think we want.
And here I will stop, because faith is not the subject of the month.