Monday, December 29, 2008


There seems to be a dilemma here with love. We have an intuition that pure love is inherently good and it has intrinsic value. When we love, we are doing the right thing. The problem for me is that I have a hard time remaining satisfied with life when all I'm doing is reaching out to others and not looking out for myself, so I slump back into selfishness again and again. Trying to act off of the knowledge that selflessly loving others is good will only allow us to continue for so long before we relapse. It seems that in order to actually love the way we feel we are supposed to love, we've got to find a way to find true satisfaction in it.

Strangely, I went to church with my sister and brother-in-law yesterday and they preached on the topic of love. The pastor layed out an interesting argument which touched on the dilemma mentioned above, and he brought in Jesus as an interesting solution to the problem. I don't really feel comfortable talking about coincidences in life being "God's plan" as that creates WAY too many sticky theological problems that I don't want to deal with, but I was pleasantly surprised when I heard what he was preaching about.

The solution I heard on Sunday was twofold. First, we have to re-evaluate what we mean when we talk about happiness. Does happiness mean living in a state of ease where we are not confronted with trouble? Does happiness essentially mean traveling the path of least resistance? When you get down to it, that sounds like cheap happiness, and it ultimately doesn't sound very meaningful. Perhaps we should try to think about happiness as meaning living a life oriented towards a goal we have pre-established. Happiness turns out to be not an emotion, but rather a sense of deeper satisfaction built upon the knowledge that you are doing what you were meant to do. Often, that will lead to the emotion we refer to as "happiness," but the emotion and the sense of satisfaction aren't necessarily connected. There is a lot of room for discussion and further concept connection here, but I think this sounds about right for me.

The second solution, which is really an extension of the first solution, is faith. When we are utterly convinced that our actions are correct, we can feel at ease and find a sense of peace in them. This, however, takes faith. We have to have faith that we are doing the right thing. One can only think about acting for so long before she or he hits a wall in their thinking and just has to take a leap of faith and act. I can't every really be sure that I'm acting for the right reasons or that my belief system is completely in tact and correct. We all have to have faith at some point. If our faith is strong enough, the selfishness that irks us so much dissipates.

I think this is because our selfishness is essentially fear. If we are unsure that we are acting for the right reasons, we will revert back to self-sustaining behavior. At the very least this buys us more time to think about what is right and what is wrong. Faith removes the fear we experience in the uncertainty of action.

So it's that simple, I guess. If we want to be satisfied with loving, just start loving and know that you are doing good. We've got to have faith, true faith, in something - be it Christ, anatman, humanism, etc. - and that makes all the difference.


Lady A said...


Lady A said...

So let me paraphrase The Problem:

The problem is when you tend to love others you do so in a doormat sorta fashion? To put it bluntly?

Because if youre giving and giving without restraint or care for yourself, then yeah, obviously you will be unsatisfied and recklessly steer in the opposite direction to compensate.

And secondly who is defining for us the way in which we are "supposed" to love? Who is setting the rules or guidelines for you?

I think people love the only way in which they know how. But that doesnt always mean it's "healthy" or a great scenario to be in.

I think I get what your'e saying about faith, but faith alone- that youre doing a healthy thing... is flimsy at best.

To be satisfied with "love" sounds strange to me... It's natural! You dont have to ask if it's satisfying because it simply is.

Fear is not a problem, anger is not a problem, as long as we are brave enough to adress the big issues they are flagging.

If you have doubts or uncertainties, explore them without the ego in the way... and see what you dig up.

Mark said...

I don't think it's just about loving in a doormat sort of way. I think it's that just learning to give yourself freely is hard to do. Learning to live life unselfishly is a struggle for most people, and it isn't inherently satisfying to most people. Maybe it's just me. I don't know. It's just hard to not give and want something back in return.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Found you!

Happy New Year!

May you be blessed with much happiness and many joys in 2009!

May the world be blessed with Peace & Justice in 2009!

Lady A said...

I think it would help if you gave more specifics. Obvioulsy there are times when we give and we expect nothing back in return (ex: Walking the little old lady across the street. Or giving time or money to charities).

In the realm of making friends if Laura gives a friendship bracelet to her class mate- she might be expecting that class mate to feel closer to her in some way. It's an "invitation" to be friends.

In the realm of more evolved friendships or romantic love there is often times an understanding (verbal or non verbal) that things are clearly mutual.

In the case that they are not- then issues of resentment occur. But that also has to do with "expectations". No one is obligated to love us, no matter how many hoops of fire we leap through. No one OWES it to us. Besides you cant make someone a slave into loving you simply because we are nice and we did all the required steps to get "what we want".

Its humbling to put it lightly.

I think its important to understand WHERE you are putting your energies. Is the person capable and willing to give back?

If they are not- then you have to change your "expectations".

If you invest your time in people, and develop relationships, with those individuals who CAN give you what you want... then all is mutual. It works out!

But you cant expect everyone you give to, to give you what you want in return. It's not realistic.

Sometimes we are in situations where it is working- but something changes or the person is no longer reciprocal. Unless you are married there is no real contract to hold against them.

And even if you could hold up a physical contract in someone's face declaring that they OWE you love or OWE you something... then what kind of relationship is that anyway? Where you have to demand or remind someone to return friendship or affection.