Sunday, January 15, 2006

"Love is a Verb"

(So says DC Talk. :-)

At the end of the last entry I quoted JPII as saying that "love for a person must consist in affirmation that the person has a value higher than that of an object for consumption or use" (42). He goes on to say, "He who loves will endeavour to declare this by his whole behavior" (43). We all want to be loved, to be truly loved for who we really are. And we need to experience another person taking time to show us their love. (By the way, in the homily today at Mass our Pastor stressed that how we live our lives demonstrates what it is we most desire. We can show God our love by how we spend our time. Our Pastor especially exhorted us to spend time simply in prayer and meditation on Scripture as a way to know God and to love Him with our time.)

Anybody read The Five Love Languages by (Protestant author and counselor) Gary Chapman? I personally love the book. He has observed 5 major categories of ways that people express and receive love. The five major categories he gives are: 1. words of affirmation 2. physical touch 3. quality time 4. giving/receiving gifts 5. acts of service. It could be that my best girl friend tends to express love and receive love primarily through gifts, but I am more of a "words of affirmation" girl. So if she gives me a bracelet she bought on trip to Brazil (all hypothetical), I can understand that she is showing me how much she values me. However, I may not be particularly fond of knick knacks and trinkets or even jewelry, and therefore, I do not derive much pleasure from the gift itself but rather from knowing what that gift expresses. I in turn may frequently praise my friend for her maturity in handling difficult situations and her great fashion sense. She appreciates it, and knows that I am saying those things because I love and value her. But perhaps a hand-made card would have communicated my love even more loudly to her because for some reason such tangible gifts are her favorite way of receiving love.

Anyway, I think that the "love languages" concept is really fun to think about. The overarching message of the book is that when you love and care about someone, you are willing to make the effort to find out what makes them tick and to learn to express love to them in a way that speaks loud and clear to them personally. Again, we all long to be loved this way, for who we really are, and in such a way that another person's love for us affects their behavior profoundly.

Catholic psychologist Conrad W. Baars, M.D., and Anna A. Terruwe, M.D., discuss in their book Healing the Unaffirmed the innate need each of us has to be truly affirmed by another, to know we are valuable simply as we are. This affirmation frees us to become even more fully who we are, to become the best, most holy person we can be. It fills us with confidence. Here are some thoughts from the book:

"The most typical characteristic of mature human love is tenderness, whether manifested in the tone of voice, words, touch, or the way one looks at the beloved. People are tender because they sense another's goodness and beauty, because they realize how precious the other is. They take care to let the other person be, precisely because they love the other just the way he or she is at that moment." (184)

"It is through the tender touch, the tender look, the tender words and tone of voice that the child is affirmed in its own goodness, worth, and loveableness. The tenderness with which a mother cradles her infant in her arms, cuddles and caresses it, and presses it to her, is as primary in the order of importance as it is in the order of development. Without such tactile expressions of maternal love the child will develop later in life the most serious form of emotional deprivation disorder." (184)

" Similarly, such tender love leaves its unmistakable mark in the expression of the eyes. The tender gaze is characterized by repose and tranquility in the delight of contemplating the good. It reflects admiration and awe, as well as the joy of love. It changes in character as soon as one feels a desire to possess or direct the other to oneself. Nor does the other fail to sense this, for the will can mask or control the expression of the eyes only very slightly. . ." (185) [emphasis is my own]

"Only genuine love declares unequivocally to children that the other has recognized them as good and valuable. Only this love affirms their goodness and worth, and because this process takes place on the emotional level, in the sensory sphere, it becomes anchored in the soma, in the biological organism where it forms a lasting source of the feeling that children are a good for themselves as well as for others. Without it they may in later years arrive at the conclusion that they are good because of what they do: performing their duties, showing obedience, getting good grades at school, attaining success in their profession, and so forth. Yet this cognitive knowledge will never provide them with the feeling of self-love which is the indispensable requirement for the fullness of their existence as social beings. 'Man's being,' says Heidegger, 'is to be with others,' to commune with one's fellow human beings in a union of feelings, in mutual emotional rapport. The nature of people as social beings absolutely demands this emotional contact with others; they cannot become open to others unless they have first been affirmed by another's unselfish love. Without such affirmation they are doomed to a life of gnawing uncertainty about their own self-worth. No degree of professional or intellectual accomplishments, however outstanding or widely acclaimed, can make up for this emotional deficit. It can only be filled by the unselfish love of another person." (185-6).

I John 3:18 "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."

I John 5:2-3 "This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome . . . ."

James 2: 14-26 "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

"But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.'
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

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