Monday, June 11, 2007

Love your neighbor as yourself

Granted, if you don't love/like yourself that much, the subject statement takes an entirely different tone.

However, I'll interpret it in the context it was given. I've been involved in some discussions in various places in the manner of love and how it's expressed/handled/so on. For the most part, it was on the 'agape' love. In the Christian sense, demonstrated through the Good Samaritan parable, Jesus' sayings and his sacrifice. And as a way of living in general, regardless of religious beliefs (or lack thereof), 'do unto others as you would have them to unto you' is one of the best ways of living, as it forces one to put him/herself into the shoes of another and evaluate consequences of all actions.However, in terms of the 'agape' love, I was coming across a sentiment of one loves his/her neighbor because that is how one expresses love for God, or because Jesus said to do that, or because it's how we show we've changed. But I never saw the sentiment of I love my neighbor that violently disagrees with me and everything I stand for. As in, not just loving the neighbor through acting in a loving fashion, but literally loving without a an iota of hate or scorn. All you hold towards the opposing side is pure love.

Now, I'm sure there are a lot of people who do hold that sentiment of loving through actions and an internal mindset -- but it wasn't common in the discussions I was having. So my thing is ... is it really love if it's only in the action? Because I can act in a loving fashion to all sorts of people, while remaining apathetic about them emotionally, or even hating them. In which case, I'm loving on the outside, but not so much on the inside. Which would make me a hypocrite, because if I don't love that person in an internal way, then do I really love the person at all? I can say and show that I love the person as much as I want, but I'd be lying.*

If still holding this in a Christian sense, the crucifixion was the culmination of the 'agape' love. And that love wasn't just confined to the action. Jesus wasn't crucified while filled with hate. He internally loved them during the whole process. I'm not dismissing the actions themselves, because oftentimes it's the only way we can love someone, and it can make a great starting point. But, in the end, it looks like there has to be something deeper: a willingness on one's part love through-and-through.

So I would say that when God calls us to love a neighbor as ourself, we have to do much more than just act loving. We have to be willing to forsake everything else that might justify a negative feeling we'd harbor towards another.

As always, much easier said that done.

*This would be using the term 'hypocrite' in a rather unusual sense, because it's not along the lines of saying one thing and doing another. It's more of saying one thing and feeling another.

10 comments:

SocietyVs said...

"We have to be willing to forsake everything else that might justify a negative feeling we'd harbor towards another." (Heather)

I agree - since love is part of us - and for me that includes emotional/mental/physical/spiritual aspects of totality of a person (according to my cultural views). Love is a weird thing - since we may not feel love when we first help someone (or vice versa) and then that develops - so love grows from contact (and we might not feel it right away).

The odd thing for me is the command to 'love your neighbor as yourself' is a thing that develops as we go (or we lose as we go). I do not think this is a static term - we have to prgressively develop it and learn more about the concept to make it more full. We can easily hate as love - in any given situation - but this places the choice in our laps. The more we love our self (self respect) the more we can love others and give of ourselves - the less we do of this - the less we have to give. This is where the crux of this faith lies for me.

Heather said...

Society,

**Love is a weird thing - since we may not feel love when we first help someone (or vice versa) and then that develops ** I agree. Sometimes, a loving action is all that we're capable of (and by that, haven't we all had times where we've just had to walk away lest we do something physical because we're that upset?). But it can't always remain at the action. To truly be love, it must be deeper. And this can even be love in a sense of calmness about someone we've previously disliked.

** I do not think this is a static term - we have to prgressively develop it and learn more about the concept to make it more full. ** Agree. I think it's something we can choose to build on, each day, taking it one piece at a time. And, of course, we also have to love ourselves as well.

Ultimately, this isn't something that I think can be accomplished by human willpower -- as in, you can't wake up one day and go, "Okay, today's the day I love everyone." It's more of a letting go.

MOI said...

Heather,

Excellent post! I've had a big problem with this in my Christian life. I thought to myself, "how am I loving if I merely act so but really dislike humanity in my heart?" It was very weird. But aren't Christians fond of saying that our feelings will follow our actions? In some sense this is true. Do something often enough and you will eventually feel it? Of course others will say that if we were truly loving deep down inside then all of our actions stem from love. Which comes first the action or the feeling?

JP Manzi said...

Great thoughts Heather! Part of me says, well, if we love someone in actions but not in our hearts, that person will not know, so what does it matter? On the other hand, I see the death of Jesus and the love he had not only in this action but in his words which you know comes from the heart. An example for us all to carry on.

Brendan said...

Some people want to hate themselves. What should they do?

Heather said...

Moi,

**Which comes first the action or the feeling? ** I think we can call this a spiritualized version of the chicken or the egg problem. :) I think the answer of which comes first depends on the situation.

**But aren't Christians fond of saying that our feelings will follow our actions? In some sense this is true. ** In some sense, yes, but only if one is willing to cast off the non-nice feelings. Eventually, it should reach the point where the love reaction is instinctive, rather than one willing oneself to act lovingly while still harboring non-loving feelings. I think that's a big part of Jesus saying that it's not just enough to not commit adultery (the action). You have to take it deeper, and go after the moviation (lust in one's heart) because all actions stem from a motivation. If you just focus on stopping the action, then there won't be a permanent healing. That can be applied in reverse, where if one just focuses on acting loving, the person will never reach the point where there's geniune love.

JP,

**if we love someone in actions but not in our hearts, that person will not know, so what does it matter?** True, the other person won't ever know. It would kind of fall along the 'white lie' line, but at the same time, it's also kind of deceptive, because it's not the true motivation acting. Now, one should always act loving, even if one doesn't feel that way. After all, if I acted on my feelings all the time, my life would be much more chaotic and there'd be a lot of damaged people. But I also think it matters because negative feelings can 'poison the soul.' It also kind of gives the source of the negative feelings power over you.

Brendan,

**Some people want to hate themselves. What should they do? ** Hopefully not act on that through fear of the consequences. But that does bring up the pitfall, which I alluded to in that this post does no good if someone hates him/herself.

SocietyVs said...

"But that does bring up the pitfall, which I alluded to in that this post does no good if someone hates him/herself." (Heather)

That's no pitfall - this is in fact what does happen in society when people follow through on anger and develop a 'hate'. Treating others like we want to be treated has that quality to it - it is through our eyes and we are responsible for the cards we play. It's the battle that has never stopped - good and evil - hate and love - just what side of that tug o war is winning and determining our perspective?

Mystical Seeker said...

I don't know. I think of love in a religious sense as not being about emotions or feelings but about recognizing the inherent God-given worth and value of another person. That means that I will not treat a person wrongly or unfairly even if I don't like them very much. I don't think it is to be expected that we will like every person we meet. Some people are assholes, but even the assholes have the right to be treated fairly and justly.

Heather said...

Mystical,

I get what you're saying. What I should've clarified is how I'm defining love. I don't see the agape love as a 'feel good' something that is dependent on another person. Rather, I see it as a vastly powerful aspect that never wavers or changes. It's not started by anything. It simply is.

**I don't think it is to be expected that we will like every person we meet. Some people are assholes, but even the assholes have the right to be treated fairly and justly. ** True. But there are people who would still love the assholes, even if there is nothing redeemable about them. It has nothing to do with the other person, but everything to do with the God-given worth.

I guess what I'm saying is that this type of love doesn't let the other person affect it.

Heather said...

Society,

**That's no pitfall - this is in fact what does happen in society when people follow through on anger and develop a 'hate'. **

It does, and it's a 'consequence' of the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is only effective if the person acting on it doesn't hate him/herself. If so, then the Rule will cause harm to others. That's what I meant by 'pitfall' of the Golden Rule, if taken at face value.