Thoughts on Love

There are psychological preferences as expressed through type, and then there are moral behaviors. A person’s type may determine how she expresses her values, but it does not determine the values themselves. A person’s type contributes to how he gives his gift, but the decision about whether or not to give the gift is a moral one.

Psychoanalyst and author Alice Miller writes that people who grow to adulthood without ever having been truly loved as children are similarly unable to truly love. In that case, “we can only try to behave as if we were loving. But this hypocritical behavior is the opposite of love,” she writes. Only “a loved child learns from the beginning what love is.” Others have to learn what love is in adulthood if they learn it at all.

A person’s psychological type doesn’t determine whether she makes the choice to learn love in adulthood, or instead follows her natural but hypocritical inclination to act as if she were loving. Making decisions about whether to learn to love or not, whether to search for God or not, whether to seek out and develop one’s own true self or not, and whether to keep one’s word, commitments, and obligations or not are all moral choices. Not one of these choices is determined by personality or psychological type.

Excuse Me?

I think that growing up unwanted and unloved are good excuses for being a psychological mess upon reaching adulthood. But there’s no good excuse for failing to really learn to love rather than acting as if you love, no good excuse for failing to love someone with all your heart, with passion and sincerity, by desiring and acting in ways that serve the needs of the beloved in addition to serving yourself. I see no good excuses for receiving good in one’s life and hoarding that good rather than sharing it. There’s no good excuse for being given the chance to heal–perhaps many such chances–and refusing it or betraying your healer, as Judas did Jesus.

Jesus told a story about a wealthy landowner who prepared to go on a long journey. Calling three of his most trusted servants to him, he explained that he’d be gone for a very long time. “I’m leaving you three in charge,” he said, “so you’ll need this money I’ve budgeted. Make good use of it and when I return, we’ll have an accounting.” The first servant received one talent, which was worth nine years’ of skilled work–$20,000.00 in 2004 dollars. The second servant was given two talents, equivalent to $40,000.00, and the third servant was given five talents, equivalent to $100,000.00.

When the master returned, he learned that all but the servant who’d been given one talent had doubled his money for him. The one-talent servant had buried his $20,000.00 in the ground and returned it unharmed to the master. The master was shocked! “What?! You buried my money in the ground when you could have at least put it in the bank and earned me interest?! Why did you do that?!”

The servant replied, “Oh, it’s your fault, sir. Everyone knows what a hard-hearted man you are. I was afraid of your anger; it’s your fault I buried the money.”  Not fooled by the servant’s blame, the wealthy landowner considered the fact that two of his three trusted servants had valued something greater than their own skins. They’d been willing to overcome their excuses and fear to profit from the trust and generosity their boss had showed them.

“If you had really believed I am the hard-nosed bastard you say I am,” the rich man replied, “You would have put that money in the bank rather than risk having it dug up and stolen. You would have at least earned me the interest that money would have earned had I never placed my trust in you. As it is, you used me to excuse the smallness of your own heart. You’ve broken my trust and failed to return anything on my investment. You’ve just proved that you’re not the sort of servant I want in my business.”  The boss then took the $20,000.00 back from the hoarder and gave it to the servant who had doubled his $100,000.00. “Get that lazy servant who buried his money in the ground out of here!” he cried.

And there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Love Gives

Love is not a Scrooge McDuck. Love is a giver. Isn’t that the gospel? “For God so loved… that He gave…”. Love is a constant yielding in the back of one’s mind, all the way to and beyond the boundaries of one’s heart. Love makes me always aware of the yield sign.

It’s not easy to love. Love doesn’t come naturally to us. If love came naturally, we’d all do love like we do whatever else comes naturally: urinating, defecating, fornicating.  That love with its giving, yielding, believing, hoping, patience, and kindness isn’t natural to us is obvious. People are natural-born takers, doubters, demanders. We’re impatient and unkind. We give up, we don’t run the race to the end; we let people down.

It’s all so jolly as we go along loving those who are easy to love, our friends, the ones similar to us, those who agree with us and think our plans are just grand. But just let a disagreement occur, a difference of opinion. It stops being such a fine, jolly frolic when our differences draw blood. Then the stakes are serious.

When people are willing to give up their right to have their own way, I know that they are truly awake and alive to love, regardless of their psychological type. Extraverts and introverts alike are able to love. Extraverts may do it with a lot of words and production, and introverts may do it quietly without drawing much attention to themselves, but the character of the love will be constant.

Love Yields

Love yields. Because love yields, it’s not possible for love to have its way in a conflict in which one person wins at the other person’s expense. When my loved one demands his own way and I yield to him, one of us has loved and one of us has not. Love has a concern for each person in the exchange, each person in the relationship.

“Love hurts, love scars, love wounds, and marks,” Nazareth sang, but love doesn’t have to achieve its ends through suffering. A person can always try to choose the path of love, a path that says, “I don’t want to win at your expense. I’m more than a vampire, sucking your blood; I’m more than a leech or a parasite, always taking and giving nothing in return. I hear that I’m causing you pain, and I’m sorry. What solution can we arrive at that will serve our mutual interests? What can we do to achieve peace between us?”

That kind of caring doesn’t arise from personality type; it is rooted in good character.

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