Dr. M Scott Peck wrote: “I have defined love as the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love.”
“Genuine love not only respects the individuality of the other but actually cultivates it, even at the risk of separation or loss. The ultimate goal of life remains the spiritual growth of the individual, the solitary journey to peaks that can be climbed only alone .
Dictionary: Love noun
noun: love; plural noun: loves an intense feeling of deep affection.
I think Peck has it right and the dictionary has it wrong. Real love, true love is a commitment to do good and to nurture good. Real love is far more difficult and even more painful at times than simple non-tangible “Feelings”. The “Feeling” of LOVE cannot be adequately defined – it is poetry not reality. The commitment of a mission “To Love” can be observed, quantified, and defined.
To me, loving God is keeping His commandments, following the examples shown to us by Jesus Christ, and helping those we love do the same. This helping others do the same, works best when we enter a “Synergy” of mutual cooperation. That is when we and the people we love help one another stay on the path to God. This bi-directional commitment is very powerful – synergistic.
I always had a problem when told we need to “Love God”. I thought of the inferior ‘Feelings of love”. Loving God with our actions is a far more powerful and acceptable love for God. This love of God is tangible and easy to understand. Since it is observed, quantified, and defined it is also easier to see when we fail. It is painful to suffer from this failure, but we are now living in TRUTH and in REALITY and know our God is all merciful. The tangible reality love is far superior to the poetic fantasy love.
Love Thy Neighbor:
Who is my neighbor? Many people will say: “Everyone”. I suppose in a way that is true, but to expand this mandate to impossible limits is an invitation to do nothing. I think it is fair to say, for this purpose, that “My Neighbors” are the people God brings into my life. Not all these people do I like. It may be fair to say that some of these people may not be particularly likable. None-the less, THESE people are my neighbors. If I treat the ones that are less likable with this “Neighborly love” then I feel that I’ll be better able to help and enjoy the “Neighbors” that I find to be more easily likable.
Now loving our neighbor, in many ways, is more difficult than loving God. For in loving our neighbor the path to understanding is not as easily understood – at least for people like me. I know I have a challenging time trying to figure out if someone needs help, and how to help people in the way they need and want to be helped.
“Love is not simply giving; it is judicious giving and judicious withholding as well. It is judicious praising and judicious criticizing. It is judicious arguing, struggling, confronting, urging, pushing and pulling in addition to comforting. It is leadership.” – M. Scott Peck
“It is leadership”? Problem number one: Who elected me leader? Who said my neighbor needs help? Is my view of a problem correct, and is my solution the right way? How do I know when to “Help”, when to simply “Listen”, and when to just not get involved? Well, I finally figured this one out. The answer to all these questions is: “PRAYER”. Prayer is the first and most important step in a mission to help – or at least it should be.
How do I know when I need help?
Maybe I need help when I feel I am frozen with indecision – not knowing which choice to make or which path to follow. Being “Stuck” is a sure sign of needing help. Again, the first line of attack is “Prayer”. For me, and especially lately, PRAYER and listening for the whispers of God’s guidance has been most helpful and comforting. None-the-less, at times we need to turn to others for help. When their suggestions bring us closer to God, we have chosen help wisely. If their advice does not bring us closer to God, we need further prayer and re-evaluation. Seldom in life do we need to make a decision NOW – this second. There is always time for prayer. In fact, for me, making time for prayer seems to have my problems almost solve themselves. Prayer itself brings clarity to the situation.
Not every human encounter involves a robbery victim on the side of the road and in need for a Good Samaritan. Fortunately, most times, God brings people into our lives so that we can simply enjoy their company. This is a wonderful part of life and we should always remember to thank God for these friends’ existence. God wants us to laugh, enjoy, communicate, and show one another we appreciate them. God wants us to love our friends – “Love being the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” It is right and just that we enjoy this effort.
Now, as a world class introvert, I’ll never be the “Life of the party”, or the person able to make everyone feel great just because I step into the room. I do not easily make many friendships. That said, I am grateful to God that the friendships I have made are usually with very good decent people. It is quality not quantity that counts. The ones with the most quality are those that help bring me closer to God. To those people I am especially grateful for their existence and I am most remorseful when I let them down.
Within “Love” is mercy. “… Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” The “Synergy” of forgiveness is very much in keeping with Peck’s definition of love: “ Love is the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. Only God will never let us down. The rest of us are flawed humans. I pray that people will forgive my flaws. I pray harder to remember that I must forgive the flaws of others.
In short, LOVE is not an emotion. Love is a commitment to Witness God’s mercy.
Just finished reading “How To Listen When God Is Speaking” by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ. I can see how I may grow to “Feel” love for God in addition to knowing respect and duty to God. My deficiency now, is that I have not been listening to God in my prayers long enough. As I listen more and listen better, I shall know God more. One needs to know God to love God.
Fr. Pacwa writes: “ We should avoid talking so much to God in our prayer that we do not give him a chance to speak back to us.” How can we get to KNOW anyone if we do all the talking?
Fr. Pacwa also writes: “Only after experiencing God’s reciprocal love does a person experience a burning love for God”. Even after this first 2 ½ months of listening better in my prayers, I feel that I am on the right road to achieve this feeling of Love for God.
Fr. Pacwa has predicted my feelings when he wrote: “Many people may be surprised at the peace they experience after a thoroughly honest moral examination of their lives.