By Dr. Dennis Acop
Valentine’s Day just went by. Love is still in the air. One can tell just by the themes of articles published out there. But do we really know about love? What is our understanding of love? This thing called love can also be construed for something else you know. The word love is so overused that a lesser synonym is probably more appropriate for its referral. Especially in today’s world. From where I stand in life today though along with all the wisdom that 59 years can muster to bear, I dare say that there are basically just two kinds of love. On the one hand, there is selfish love. This is often promoted by a secular school of thought. And on the other hand, there is the selfless kind. Often referred to by the Christian worldview. That is, self-giving love, for want of a better term.
In essence, selfish love is primarily love of self. It is the school of thought about love that has as its core concept self-interest. It may involve just simply love of oneself or it may also be love of others but in a really selfish way. Secularists write and talk about love of oneself as the ultimate love. At a glimpse, it is hard to argue against such worldview. But on second thought, this mindset comes from a very materialistic appreciation of one’s self-worth along with the ego that drives one to rise to the top of the food chain. It almost assumes that love is primarily conditioned towards fulfilling Maslow’s hierarchy of man’s needs. How can man not love himself when he has to lest he perishes or not attain his utmost personal glory. Whether it is satisfying his most basic needs or becoming the wealthiest, most powerful, most honored, and or most pleasured human being on earth, selfish love has as its core goal the maximization of all worldly benefits for the person seeking it. This love of self cannot be but a competitive zero-sum game as it can leave by the wayside persons and things which may come between the goal-seeker and his goal. Even within a relationship, one party can use the other towards satisfying his or her own brand of love. In such a relationship, the other may become an object, rather than the subject of love. Even faith is not spared from selfish love. There is a difference between loving God unconditionally and leaving Him when the going gets rough or when we feel He did not deliver what we wanted despite our prayerful life. If we love God only when the going is easy, when chips are falling into place for us, when life is prosperous, but not when we have to carry our cross, then we may love even Him but in a selfish kind of way. We love only because and if we benefit.
Then there is also what is called selfless, self-giving love. Chiefly coming from a Christian worldview really, this is a kind of love where the self is given away to the subject of love. It is otherwise called the paradox love because as the self of one is lost to the other, the losing self actually gains more love in return. And it is because the other is loved as other in a non-judgmental way, as Bishop Robert Barron likes to say. It is as ‘love begets love’. For how can self-giving love, in answer to mediocre love or even hate, not be disarming? Whether it is agape or a most basic form of Christian love, self-giving love is the highest human edification one can give to another. The Lord Himself taught us that ‘there is no greater love than man laying down his own life for his friends’ (John 15:13). Soldiers who offer their lives for their country in battle practice this same self-giving love. Ordained priests who die to their flesh for the kingdom of God practice this too. Fathers and mothers who do not care about what happens to them as long as their children survive live this. Front liners who risk their lives for patients in hospital do this as well. Politicians who are assassinated for truly loving their constituents do this too. Lovers who forget themselves for their significant others have got this. As the good Bishop proclaimed: When the dying Messiah was lifted up on the cross, He drew all of mankind unto Himself. The greatest love of all. How can therefore we not love with the same fervor as this. A love that will bring us to heaven. God’s own love. God Himself.