Posts Tagged ‘Responsibility’

Week 6: Love… and Responsibility?

August 31, 2011

A couple of weeks ago we covered: The Law of the Gift

This week at Love & Responsibility in NYC we covered the chapter Love…and Responsibility? (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

Previous chapters have discussed the framework for establishing virtuous friendships, avoiding common pitfalls during the birth of a new relationship, and understanding the dynamic of love. This chapter speaks of what should happen after the relationship (and hopefully true love) has been established. It calls us not only to love, but to be responsible about it:

  • to fully accept the gift of love,
  • to fully trust the person so that they can be free to be emotionally intimate,
  • to resist focusing on our loved one’s faults which would reduce the person to a mere sinful object instead of the human person deserving of dignity that they are
  • to accept our loved one’s shortcomings and to help them in overcoming them,
  • to love them in “good times and bad”,
  • to challenge ourselves to grow from an immature love that looks inward to our own needs, to a mature love that looks outward toward what is best for our loved one.

Ed Sri then goes on to give examples of what a marriage made of mature love looks like and what a marriage made of immature love looks like. One couple had the trial of the wife getting ill with cancer. Faced with a life that he hadn’t planned for, the husband removed himself from the trial and left his wife, rather than deal with having to take care of her through her fight with cancer. (Can you say JERK???)

The other couple Ed Sri described in the chapter experienced the trial of the wife having M.S.. The husband stayed through the trial and even though the wife lost the use of her arms and legs,  he gave up the comfort of having a larger retirement fund and chose to love his wife by caring for her physical needs.  When the going got tough, he didn’t get going.  (Yay!!!)

As a single person, it’s a scary picture. Finding a suitable or compatible spouse seems like a hard enough task and now their being faced with the fact that even though they may find that man (or woman) of their dreams, the most difficult trials of love may lie ahead of them? I can just hear them saying, “I thought the hard part was dating? now you’re telling us that the hard part is when you love someone in marriage? EEESH.”

As a married person, I can tell you – it’s true. Each state of life has it’s own adventures – it’s own challenges – it’s own opportunities to challenge one’s self to become the best version of themselves. When you’re in the dating world, generally, you can’t wait to NOT be in the dating world anymore so that you don’t have to deal with all of the ridiculousness of being IN the dating world. But when you are married, the adventures (and even some of the ridiculousness) doesn’t end there. There’s a whole new level of adventures and challenges.

The key is to move beyond the immature inward looking love to the mature outward looking love. The more you work to strive toward (or strive to increase) the mature love in your marriage the more able you are able to handle adventures with peace and confidence.

This book and this chapter specifically has been very helpful in my marriage in regards to how I handle those unforeseen adventures. There’s an “adventure” that happened late in the first year of our marriage in which I really had to implement these ideas of not focusing on my spouse’s faults and responding in a way that would help my spouse overcome his shortcomings.  It also properly conveyed that while the matter was serious, my love for my spouse did not waver.

My response must have been thanks to a heavy dose of grace from God because I distinctly remember literally taking a few steps away from the discussion, taking deep breaths, and thinking to myself over and over again, “Your spouse is not the sum of his shortcomings. Your spouse is not the sum of his shortcomings. He was designed by God and has Human Dignity. He is a son of the King.”

20110915-024141.jpg

Beware of immature love's laser eyes!

My husband and I laugh about it now because he could plainly see that at that moment,  while I was faced with this adventure, I was so angry that I was practically on the verge of having lasers shoot from my eyeballs.  But in the next moment, without saying anything, the anger quickly dissipated and was followed by a very calm, peaceful, logical explanation about how his choice had been a poor choice and how to prevent it in the future.

Some of the hardest times to love someone is going to be when we are angry or when someone is angry at us.  The challenge is to diffuse the situation and to give our loved one an opportunity to adjust their behavior from cranky to calm.  I like to think of this as a lob in tennis.

Do you know what a lob is?

It’s where you loft the ball back at your opponent with an upward arcing direction so that it either lands behind them or forces them to back up.  It can be used defensively to diffuse a powerful shot and thereby give you additional time to collect yourself to be ready for the next shot,  or offensively to win the shot by catching your opponent off guard.

Here’s a picture:

Love: Lob your response back when met with anger.

A marriage based on immature love is one where the person returns an angry remark with an angry remark to win the point.  Ewww

A marriage based on immature love might be severely weakened by one  “adventure” caused by a poor choice. A marriage based on mature love (or even simply striving toward it), however, is actually strengthened by the “adventure” as each person sees that their spouse’s interaction and reaction with them is an act of love.

I think that many people stop short in their marriage (or relationship) at this immature love.   They limit the amount that they will love their fiance or their spouse. It’s sort of an invisible pre-nup. “I’ll love him no matter what, except if he cheats on me. Then it’s over.” or “I’ll love her no matter what, unless she gains like 100 lbs. Then it’s over, because I just can’t live with someone who doesn’t take care of themselves.” That love is an icky fickle love.

We are not called to have an icky fickle love. We are called to love as God loves. God loves us when we mess up. God loves us when we’re too skinny and when we’re overweight. He loves us when we are cranky and moody and when we are being totally selfish. (Of course He doesn’t love the crankiness and selfishness – it’s us He loves, not our poor choices a.k.a. sin.)

In fact when I think about it God challenges us to love Him, not just our spouses or neighbors, in a deeper more mature way too.  He challenges us to go from an immature love where we perhaps pray about how God can just help us get out of  a sticky situation to a mature love where our prayers are less about looking at what we want and more about what God wants of us.

Ok, so we’re supposed to love our neighbors with a mature love, but what if our neighbors are creeps? 😛

What do we do when loving in a real mature way is the last thing that we want to do?  How do we treat that stinky, drunk, loud, rude, obnoxious, 7 foot tall man as a man who was created in God’s image? a man who is a son of God? a man who is a prince in God’s kingdom – but who is seriously disguised with all of his troubles and shortcomings at this point?

I came across such a man when I was on the subway about 5 years ago.  It was early in the morning.  I was on my way to work and I was really not in the mood to be faced with someone who must have been drinking throughout the night and into the dawn.  Yet what came to mind were balloons.

It's a boy! or It's a girl! helps us to remember that we are all children of God.

Balloons tied to someone’s front door or someone’s mailbox.  “It’s a boy! Congratulations!” were written on them and they were tied with blue ribbons.  One day, 30 some odd years ago a mother brought that 7 foot man, who was then just a little bundle of joy, home from the hospital.

I think that’s how God sees us.  He remembers us when we were just a little nugget of cuteness in our mother’s arms.

So when you come across someone who is being cranky or stinky or both, just think of the bouquet of balloons to help you see them as God sees them.  It’s helped me many times.

We all have intrinsic value.  We were born with it.  We can’t escape it and no one can take it away.  In fact, during the large discussion group someone asked what intrinsic value was.  Someone gave a great answer:  extrinsic things are things that can be taken from us; intrinsic things are things that cannot be taken away.

God loves us with an intrinsic love.  You.  God loves You – the unrepeatable, unprecedented you.

(That reminds me of a trailer for a movie: The Human Experience   If you haven’t seen the movie…. SEE IT! It’s awesome!)

A gentleman commented during the group discussion that “we all were created in God’s image – and that we all reveal something about God that no one else can reveal.”  We are different for a reason.

Another gentleman, Mike, reminded us:  God created us, therefore we are good because everything that God created is good.

Some more great comments from that night include:

  • Every moment that we are in is a moment for our own conversion.
  • Loving with a mature love begins with us:  We have to know our own worth in order to value someone else and then be
    responsible for them.
  • Daniela quoted C.S. Lewis, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Treat your neighbor with respect.  We can either help our spouse (or neighbor) to be a monster or an angel.
  • Selfless love doesn’t count the cost.

The last example that I want to point out is one that was given by one of the women in the group.  She told us a story that was similar to the two couples described in the book.  It was the story of her two Aunts.  Both were faced with infidelity by their spouses.  But one handled it with love, while the other handled it with anger.  The “angry” Aunt is now divorced and still angry.  The “loving” Aunt worked hard to keep her marriage together and worked hard to show her spouse that even in a time of severe trouble and distrust, she still loved her spouse.

I’m glad that JPII, Ed Sri, and even people at our discussion group agree:  there’s more to love than just love…. there’s responsibility.

It’s not easy, but it leads to true happiness.  Good luck and see you next week!