Thursday, November 17, 2005

When is an act of love anti-love?

No, really, I'm asking you. What do you think? When is an act of love anti-love?

I ask because of Footnote 11 in JPII's Love & Responsibility. I am fascinated by this quote, but I can't quite wrap my mind around what it means and how it plays out in our lives. JPII writes:
"It is, of course, not enough just to want to affirm the other person for the consequent act (of goodwill) to become also an act of love. It is necessary in addition for the action undertaken with the intention of affirming another person to be objectively suited to the role which the agent's intention assigns to it. Whether it is or is not suitable is decided by the objective structure of the person affected by the action. Only success in understanding the other person and allowing when acting for that person's specific traits ensures that the act will be recognizable as a genuine act of love. An imperfect understanding of the structure of the object person must, in consequence become the source of (inadvertent and hence involuntary) action to the detriment of that person. The danger is all the greater in that utilization of the other takes place in the name of love. The agent is unaware of his delusion, and so immune from blame. None the less, the agent is responsible for an act of 'anti-love' . . . . because he loves. Only constant awareness of the danger of disintegration of love in this way (emotionalization) can help us to avoid it. Cf. Introduction o the first edition (Lublin 1960), p. 6, where the author postulates the need for 'the introduction of love into love'."

So, my darlings, enlighten me! Tell me your thoughts or questions about this passage.



Antioco Dascalon said...

This footnote is a variation on the previous statement that anti-love = use. JP2 points out that for it to be love, there must be both the objective and subjective components. In the previous section, he focused on the subjective, that is, the intentions of the agent. A person must not intend to instrumentalize another person. But anti-love can also occur if the desired goal doesn't fit with the character of the person. I would say that the first is "abuse" and the second "misuse". Abuse is the willful perversion of something, that is, it requires an ill intention. However, misuse could simply arise from ignorance.
An important corollary of this is that good intentions aren't enough to ensure love. One can truly have subjective love, but it can be expressed as anti-love. This can be caused by ignorance of human nature in general or in the particular traits of that person.
This explains the difference between the anti-love of a married couple having sex and an unmarried couple. They could have identical desires, but the unmarried are in a different objective state and thus they are misusing their sexuality because of their ignorance of the realities of sexuality.
This whole discussion is in keeping with JP2's project of combining the objectivity of Thomism and the subjective nature of phenomenology. This footnote shows that love cannot be solely defined by subjective feelings (nor by objective criteria) but both play a part in understanding love.

Natalie said...

Very helpful indeed!

Eric Kingsepp said...

I think this quote could also apply to non-romantic relationships as well. For example, sometimes when we see a friend or loved one suffering we experience a desire to help, but many people there try to "help" without really considering what kind of help is best or most desired by the person. Seeing a loved one suffer and not being able to help may be one of the worst forms of suffering, so the desire to feel helpful is intense (which JPII knew very well: if you've never read Salvifici Dolores, you must!). In this quote he seems simply to be saying that we should make sure we direct that desire (all desires, really) properly--so that will is properly informed by intellect.

"The danger is all the greater in that utilization of the other takes place in the name of love"... or help or the Faith, or whatever. Very true. Satan seems to love to attack good things from the inside.

Nice blog, btw. :-)

Leonardo Zuno said...

Hi Natalie,

I have been reading a great book by George Weigel, "The Truth of Catholicism." In it, he looks at ten major cultural controversies that Catholicism encounters in this day and age. One of them is regarding the Catholic Christian high view of sexuality as an act of worship, when done properly: with two people (married in the Church) extending God's creation and kingdom, and not using each other, but both serving a greater end than pleasure for self. I recommend that you read the book; and the chapter "How Should We Love?" will be of particular interest to you.

I've found the book to be of great help in my Catholic walk, especially because the author digs deep and looks at the implications of being Catholic in the world today. It is no wonder George Weigel is a great theologian: he was Pope John Paul II's biographer!

Take care,

Leonardo Zuno