On the Doableness of Love

I’m not at all sure that “doableness” is a word, but it communicates what I want to say, so I’m going with it. Thomas Aquinas defined love as “willing good things to happen”. M. Scott Peck’s definition was “the willingness to extend oneself for the spiritual growth of another”. The thing to notice is that at its core, love is an act of the will. This is a great relief when I realize that to love is not to feel a certain way about someone, but rather a choice to “will good things for them”–to hope for the ultimate well being of the other.

Someone once said to me about a particular person who had done me much intentional harm, “you must really hate him”. And I’m afraid at times I did. But I also know that when I understand love as not primarily a feeling (I’m not saying there are no feelings involved in love), but primarily the choice to act and think (we do have a choice about our thoughts) in a way that promotes the betterment of another person, I am free to love anyone. This makes Jesus’ mandate “love your enemies” doable, for while we may not be able to choose, for a time, to feel anything positive towards a person, we can always choose to will goodness, mercy, peace, redemption. Not easy sometimes… but doable. And doing it, making that choice, especially when it’s most difficult, begins to change us into the likeness of God.

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