The Disappearance of Love
Posted on June 26, 2009
Maybe it’s simply the circles I move in, or the poverty of my own faith, but I find myself thinking much less about love these days. How to love others, the love of Jesus towards the poor and desolate, how God’s love changes us. These are key Christian questions, yet I find myself realising the lack of love in my thoughts and conversation. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. In my work, I speak with lots of Christians, and when I ask them what they are aiming to do in their work, rarely do people say anything that approximates to “loving people”. Even simply typing the words seems naff.
But as a young(er) adult, I was obsessed with love; not surprising, you snigger. But eros aside, the community I was part of explicitly sought to love others, particular the marginalised. For inexperienced and youthful people, I think we did so reasonably well. We opened our homes to the offensive, difficult and lonely at the expense of our time, energy and comfort. Since I started in that endeavour, quite a few years have passed, and thoughts of loving others seem to have faded.
Here are a few (positive and negative) possible reasons why we don’t think and talk about ‘loving others’ these days:
1. We realised that ‘love’ is meaningful only in embodiment, rather than in emotion. It’s possible, and desirable, that our lives have become more loving, and so the need to continually talk and think about it has lessened.
2. Similar to the first reason, we became tired of talking about love and not actually loving. All talk and little walk, we decided not to talk about love until we started doing it more. Our need to talk through things is also related to ‘forming’ a cohesive community; after this is done, there are some ‘unsaid norms’ (ie. “loving others is crucial”) that don’t need rehashing.
3. As loving others became exhausting and difficult, we faced ‘compassion fatigue’ – a syndrome common to people in ‘helping’ roles. When those we tried to love refused to respond, or abused our care for them, we could become resentful and bitter. In its more extreme form, compassion fatigue results in an attitude of complete futility regarding loving others.
4. As we became more experienced in working with people, we took on roles and responsibilities that were intended to help other people love others (eg. co-ordinators, managers, mentors etc). With their jargon, meetings and protocls, these roles supplanted our original passion.
If the reasons for our lack of love are 3 & 4, then we need some form of spiritual direction, counselling and ‘re-conversion’.
But what if the reasons are 1 & 2? If we simply have stopped talking and thinking about love because it’s become passe to us, we need to start talking about it again. Why? I’ll explore that in a later post.