Saturday, January 28, 2006

What's love got to do with it?

(This blog is extremely long but hopefully not too difficult to read for someone that is willing to give it a little time. It is long because it has to be long. I am talking about love and I have only picked really just a few things to try to discuss in relation to love but even just doing this, with a topic so complicated, takes a long time. That being said, I really hope this will be read because the information in this blog really deals with a very important aspect of life and something deep down inside we all really need to do, love)

Two people I know were arguing, one says love realizes justice, the other says that is wrong and that love really realizes forgiveness. Well, both articulate their point well but they are both right and both wrong.

The person who says that love precipitates forgiveness talked about the story of Jesus and the woman about to be stoned for adultery. Jesus refused to condemn her and let her be stoned. The argument was that he did not practice justice but forgiveness.

The people who argued this argument made many good points but I have a different view. First of all, what the Bible says Jesus practiced towards the woman was all of the above: love, justice and forgiveness. Jesus, in the example loves a person, forgives them, and by doing this and encouraging the person to turn away from their wrongs is practicing a very just form of justice.

But the story is complicated because the Pharisees wanted to stone and kill the lady. For them, this meant justice. That would mean justice is subjective, but this argument is false. The real argument, the true argument is that what the Pharisees wanted to enact was punishment under the guise of justice. No more no less. Punishment, revenge, and retribution are not the same as justice though many people get them confused.

For instance, there have been people falsely imprisoned, sometimes even executed. At the time, it seemed like it was justice. Later, these people were proven innocent. What had seemed like before was justice was actually not justice at all, it was a cruel and unjustified punishment? There are other times that people who were guilty of a crime walked free. My point being, punishment and revenge is not justice no matter what it seems like a person deserves in a situation. And also that religious and secular laws do not always equal justice, especially when applied incorrectly or when designed incorrectly.

Since justice is not revenge, what is justice? Justice, simply put is when things are fair. If a wrong has taken place there are many ways that justice or fairness can take place. One way is for the victim to be compensated by the perpetrator for the offence. This is true justice.

This type of justice is something that people do for each other all the time that love each other. In fact it is a requirement. Let me explain it like this, if I love somebody but I somehow hurt them, I need to try to make up for this. If I hurt people and don’t think twice about and do it again, this is not love but abuse. Love demands that if I hurt my girlfriend’s, mother’s, or sister’s feelings, that I not ignore the situation but make up for it. This

making up for it is justice.

The victim has a part in the act too, that is if they really love the offender. The victim must forgive. If they are not forgiving, then they are not loving. If they are not forgiving, then they are harboring resentment and it is sure to cause an unhealthy relationship.

See, loving demands that one person forgive and the other seek justice. If these are not done a person is not acting in a loving way. I can’t say for sure about anyone else but I know in every relationship I have ever been in whether it was big or small, at some point somebody messed up. It always happens. We are all humans and that is just the way it goes. It is inevitable that sooner or later somebody will do something wrong to another and when this happens, this is when we have to practice forgiveness and justice if we are going to continue on with a healthy relationship.

Love is not only as simple as forgiveness and justice though. Love demands honesty too. If I love someone, I will tell him or her the truth and if I don’t I am not treating him or her fairly. Not treating people fairly is clearly not loving them.

Love means not stealing from a person or harming them also for more than obvious reasons.

Love means doing each and everyone of these things, if even one of them is absent, there is no true love.

Some might say, I am talking about actions to other people and this is not the way they define love but I am convinced my definition of love as something a person does to another person and not something that happens to them is a very solid definition.

I have heard love described as many different things. Some for instance say love is a feeling you have for others when you feel like you need to be around them. I say when you need somebody really bad that is not love but a kind of addiction, a dependence on the other, an internal lack of wholeness that is filled by the other. This is not a necessarily bad thing, we all have it. I have it too. I need people, especially those that I am close too. Often times this needing leads me to be hurt, especially when in the end I don’t get what I needed. We all get hurt in something we call love but that is not real love because real love can never hurt a person. When a person is hurt, it is because they were not whole and were a needy person. I don’t mean this in a harsh and damming way because I myself get hurt often and this is just the way I see it.

Other people say they fall in love with somebody when they see a really attractive member of the opposite sex (for some it is the same sex, but it is all the same). To me this is not love but the old sexual drive kicking in. This is not love but infatuation.

When a relationship goes farther to the point of making love. To me this means having sex but a person can also practice loving another while having sex but the two are different. In fact having sex is very often times not making love at all but something completely different. Think of all the people that use sex for their own personal pleasure at the expense of the other, the people that objectify others during sex, the people that use sex for power, or even worse the people that use sex as a way to abuse people. How can any of these things that treat people so badly be love? They are not. (I am getting to what love is in a minute, hold on)

Others say love is when they really love something. It is their favorite thing or person in the whole world. Sure they are not addicted to it, they can live without it, but when they have it, they are really happy. To me again, this is not love, this is actually liking something. To me when I like something and I am close to it, it makes me happy.

Some go back to the Greeks and say real love is Agape. This is the most high love possible but to me that is just unconditional acceptance. This is closer to love than the other things I have just mentioned but is still not love, just an important part of it.

Others talk about love as affection, or brotherly, or motherly love, or attachment, or enthusiasm. The list goes on and on. I don’t feel like explaining it all and I am not sure if anyone would even read it but still to me, none of these are love.

Actually, almost all of these things describe actions that take place within a person’s consciousness or body. All these thinks affect our mood and all of these things, I think only really hint around what love really is. See to me, love is not something that happens inside of ourselves but is something we do to others. It is actions and a state of consciousness we take towards others. Love is a giving and not a receiving. It is an outward phenomenon and not an inward phenomenon. This is why a person can look for love all their life and never find it, because it cannot really happen to you. True love is actually something you do for others.

Love is something that when you do for others you are practicing all that is good towards another. You are being honest to another, you are unconditionally accepting them, you are trying to have justice in you relationship, you are being compassionate, you are practicing harmony and unity with the other’s essence, and you are providing an opportunity for the other to grow and become more than they are. Back to my original example of Jesus, if the story is true, he would have been practicing all these things and giving people an example of how to love others.

Now the reason why I think that love as I describe it has been confused with all the things described above. I am talking about love being confused with infatuation, liking, sex, forgiveness, unconditional acceptance… The reason is for many people, myself included don’t walk around all the time manifesting all that is good and thus practicing real love.

But in moments of our life we do come close and often times we are doing something that we don’t normally do, like for instance our sex drive has enabled us to be extremely nice to a person for a while. When we are being so good to the other person, we seem to be loving them and thus we get our sex drive confused with love.

The examples vary widely for the many different types of people in the world and that is why there are so many confusing definitions of what love is. Even the definition of loving as dependence, which is one of the most common definitions. I have seen a person, (this includes me at times too), that needed another person so badly that I was forced to treat them so well. By treating them so well, I was indeed in a way loving them but this loving I was doing should not be confused with the internal dependence I had that caused my outward actions of loving.

One last thing, true love, real love, full love is as I said I very difficult thing to do. To really do it, a person has to be doing all good things at once. Not exactly that easy of a thing to do for me, especially for a long time. In fact try as hard as I can, I have never been able to do this for more than a flash. Seriously, a flash is all I have ever been able to do it for. I would like to do it for more but up till this point I have not been able to.

See for me, the way love is practiced is actually very analogous to a cheesy commercial on TV. There is a commercial for a bank (I don’t know what bank, maybe somebody can tell me) that talks about how they like to process checks. The commercial talks about all the steps the go through to process checks and how complicated it is to process millions of checks a year. The point of the commercial though is that the bank does not try to set up an operation to process millions of checks a year correctly but to learn how to process one check correctly and then repeat it a million times.

For me love is the same way. In love, I do not set out to try to be a great lover over the course of my lifetime by doing all these good things I mentioned above to everybody, every time. I try to do all these great things, all the same time, just for an instance, just with one person. If I do it, if I can do it, then I try to repeat that same thing over and over.

I say this because it seems like to me people often times seem to try to make their love in a relationship last indefinitely. They plan out their lives and couples tell each other, if you do this and I do that then I will love you or we can always be in love. For me, this way of working a relationship just does not work. I try to live in the moment; each moment doing all of the good things that make a person have a healthy relationship, one second at a time. If I do this over and over, the months or years can pass by. But if I try to plan out the months or years, then my days, minutes, and seconds get passed by.

These thoughts I have here, they are by no means all I have to say on love. I could go on more and more.

Maybe sometime I will write part two to this blog but I think I have made some very general statements here and set the general tone for what I believe about love. A lot of what I explained here, I came up through my own personal reflection in life. I thought about it all a lot and came up with many of these ideas. Some of them were refined when I became a graduate teaching assistant while attending school at KU for the class “Loving Relationships”. The class was taught by Robert Shelton who is a great wealth of knowledge in this subject but not only does he talk about such things but demonstrates them in his daily life. His book written on the subject is called, “Loving Relationships” but if a person asks me, it might be better titled “healthy and loving relationships” as that is more of what it deals with. It is a hard book to find but I think that maybe Amazon might carry it if anybody is interested. It is an academic book and not a pop book on love but is not that difficult to read. If anyone is interested in pursuing more research on what love really is, I highly recommend Shelton’s book, as it is the most complete book I have found on the subject and sure has a lot of potential to profoundly change a person’s life in so many ways if they are receptive to its message. If it is not able to be found, a much more popular book, but in my opinion not as good as Shelton’s is Erich Fromm’s book called “The Art of Loving”. It is an old classic and a good place to start in the search for what love really is.

Well, that is about it on my blog about love. If anyone actually read and go through all of this, I would love to hear back from you and see what you think. Please, really leave a comment on something or anything.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original argument was first, that love realizes justice but justice (which is worldly justice, such as laws) doesn't necessarily realizes love, and the second argumennt was about the relationship of love and forgiveness. Anyways, I agree with your opinion that love is like a big umbrealla that can embrace jutice, forgiveness and all others. Also you made a great point that love shouldn't be confused with affection, sexual drive, unconditional acceptance. All thosed listed are a part of love and important ingredients of love for sure. It is really difficult for me to say who are real lovers and who are not. Because, even though I think that love is something greater than all the obove listed, so many people have their own ways of loving in which one main ingredient is bigger than the other ingredients and it works with their significant others( not always, but often times). Also I have no authority or right to make judgement saying people that they don't really know what love is. Who would know what is true excep for Jesus? Even Phrisees were thought to be the "law" at the time and apparently turned out that they knew nothing. But I think that love is something that resonate with people and that make the world a better place. Fot this to happen, we need to grow together. As you mentioned, unconditional acceptance is not love from this perspective. Like parents have to be adamant and strict to help their kids grow up as a well arounded people, we need to enlighten each other and help us to make up for our wrongdoings to each other. Then there need to be deep trust, and affection. That would be relaized in more affectionate way for some people and for others paternalistic or whatever form work because we are all different. In the Jesus'parable, I am sure that He loved the Pharesees as well as the woman. ALthough the Phrisees tried to trap Jesus, his point was to help them relaize what justice and love was. what is amazing is that Jesus didn't judge anybody in the story and made everybody think as accepting how everybody was. We all know when we are in love. It's a human instinct. But we need to work on our instict to make it worthy and to make the world a happy place. And deep down we know how to do it. Like Jeuse had a belief in stupid human beings, I have a belief in us that we can figure out how to live together happily if we help each other grow together. Isn't that love?

10:56 AM  
Blogger Bar Bar A said...

Jeff, I read every word - and may even read it again sometime. I think what you have said here is very insightful and possibly the best definition I have ever read on love. I am not saying that to be kind, to do so would be unloving.

This is that part that struck me the most:

See to me, love is not something that happens inside of ourselves but is something we do to others. It is actions and a state of consciousness we take towards others. Love is a giving and not a receiving. It is an outward phenomenon and not an inward phenomenon. This is why a person can look for love all their life and never find it, because it cannot really happen to you. True love is actually something you do for others.

I am going to give more thought to this (I'm a processor). But so far, I think this is true. My only immediate thougth is:

If love is about giving, then where does receiving love fit in? Is receiving love a form of love?

Great stuff here! I'm jazzed that you're writing!

12:35 PM  
Blogger boo said...

what i blogged on aug 6 2005:

everywhere there's signs

if u love someone & they lie to u
they do not love u
if an adult has no money
that's a shame
don't do drugs
when you see red flags
that means danger
please consider the feelings
and the hearts of the people who loves u

what u wrote that struck me:

'but I am convinced my definition of love as something a person does to another person and not something that happens to them'

p/s i will read what u wrote again another day & share more thoughts

5:19 AM  

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