Why Is It So Hard to Love?

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Why is it so difficult for us to love unreservedly? Why do we constantly find ourselves embroiled in controversies that divide us and give us the "right" to judge another?

I pick so many ways to judge. Often I am scandalized, stunned, shocked, and secretly gratified that I have found a way to be more pious, more Godly, and more Christian than my neighbors. In the non-relgious realm I do the same, but the qualities that I am improving in myself are somewhat different. It is good that I am more refined, more intelligent, more cultivated, more honest, more loving, more whatever.

It is a problem I find myself constantly combatting. My rush to judgment is nearly always (although often unconsciously) about feeling good about ourselves. I am piqued or provoked than an opinion on some matter differs from our own.

I read a number of so-called "progressive" blogs. One of the reasons I read them is that they challenge me, sometimes strenuously, to enlarge my view of what the Catholic Church is and of the diversity of opinion within the Church. I almost never find my views of the doctrine changing as a result of reading these blogs--but what I often do find are faithful, strong Catholics, who while holding a divergent viewpoint, still want to belong to, and from their point of view, improve the Church. On the more traditional side, I read a number of blogs that wish to do the same things in the other direction. And what I find here is a difference of opinion--sometimes a difference in which one party or another can be demonstrated to be wrong according to all reasonable explications of tradition and Church Doctrine. But still, there is seldom, if ever, any malice in this wrongness.

This is one of the reasons I'm so apposed to "cleansing the temple" of those who disagree. Heaven knows I would ultimately be one of the ones cleansed because so many of my opinions are pressed right against the border of Orthodoxy and I hold on only by will. For example, you all have heard time and again how I feel about "just war." And honestly every fiber of my being repudiates such an oxymoron. Nevertheless, the Church holds and definitively teaches that such is a possibility--therefore, while all that I am rails against it, I stand with the Church. I guess this puts me in a good stead to sympathize with those whose views differ.

Nevertheless, I find judgment creeping into my thoughts. I find that I use myself as the measure of all things and what a poor measure it is! But woe be unto you if I perceive you do not reach my exalted heights and standards. (Not really, but I am sometimes shocked by my own propensity for judgment.) And so I attribute this to many of us. In some cases, people are more willing to articulate and make a point of their judgments. In my case, I pray that I can learn to stop making those judgments. And as with all such prayers, I have ample opportunity to practice the skill.

But learning to love isn't merely about learning not to pass judgment, but it is learning to accept grace and look out of oneself toward the Other. I must look first to God who is the source and image of all love. If I strive to love without grounding in God, I do so in vain because of myself I can do so little. But with His grace I can do all things. With His love I can learn to love. Paradoxically, seeking His love demands that I look beyond myself and my judgments. Seeking His love requires total abandonment to it. I've said before and will say continually, God's love is "All or Nothing at All." One cannot serve God and Mammon or God and _____. One cannot serve two masters because the one less visible will always be the secondary. As money, sex, fame, and food are all overtly present before us at all times, God will always take the back seat to them if we try to serve both.

An answer to my question then--it is so hard to love because I am so bound up in myself and my own concerns. It is so hard to love because original sin has alienated me from love. To learn to love, I must reach out to the Cross and come to an understanding of what love is by embracing Jesus as He offered Himself--not as I would like Him to offer Himself. I must accept the sacrifice of the Son of God as my own and not seek to alter, change, or transfigure it. That is part of taking up my cross. And it is only in taking up my cross that I can begin to learn love.

(P.S., I know this is a lot of I, I, I, but I also discover that the third person plural is not nearly so convicting as is the first person. That "we" do something hides me in a mass of humanity and in some way excuses what I do. But strip it down to what I do, and I need to acknowledge and answer it. And as one of my theories of blogging is that I do it largely for an audience of one who needs to hear over and over again the truths of the faith--well, please forgive me for burdening you with it.)

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Thank you for posing this terrific dilemma:
"I find that I use myself as the measure of all things and what a poor measure it is!"
. . .
"But learning to love isn't merely about learning not to pass judgment, but it is learning to accept grace and look out of oneself toward the Other."
What a narrow path has been given to us to walk in Christ!

I would say that when judging others, I must not exclude myself. I may be disturbed by your scrupulousity because of my own laxness (or vice versa). I may notice my own vices more clearly in your actions. So, these occasions of judgement can become for me examinations of my own conscience, or perhaps an opportunity for mutual assistance. In other words, your sin can become a sign for me of the sacrifice Christ has made for us both.

Thank you for this beautiful reflection and quandry. It's true that many Catholic bloggers seem to use their blogs as a platform for judging others. It's hard to restrain our opinions but I agree we should strive to do this in love and Chritian unity.

I've long felt that the demonization of anyone, be they so-called conservative or progressive Catholics is unhelpful in our common desire to seek God's will. Some verge on papolatry or seek refuge in the Magisterium as a shelter from critical thinking and engagement with the very real struggles of life. Others set themselves up as God's prophetic voice to the Church, ignoring the fact of the Church's divine institution.

Somewhere must lie the middle ground, which I believe may be found in Christ and the example of the saints: love (as you say), compassion and patience. We are all struggling together on this journey of growing in virtue.

I hope that what I write on my blog will not contribute to the divides caricaturized above, as I've always strived for a catholic approach...

Dear Fred,

Thank you.

Dear Paul,

The problem is not confined to the blogging world, although I would say that more temperance in our approach to others would behoove a great many, myself included.

Thank you for the comment.



Excellent ... and a good reminder for me. Thanks!



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 29, 2005 9:31 AM.

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