Be Loved to Love

I’ve had occasion recently to reflect again upon the Apostle Paul’s great exposition of love in I Corinthians 13:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

What is impressing me of late is this thought: Those of us who have experienced a lack of love tend then to act in just the way Paul tells us love does not act.

If we have not been loved, or have not let the love of others truly reach us and fill us and shape us and protect us and motivate us, then how do we tend to act?

Impatiently. Unkindly. Enviously, boastfully, arrogantly, and rudely. We insist on our own way; we are constantly irritable and resentful. We rejoice in the wrong things—such as vengeance, cutting corners, getting ahead at all costs, and manipulating others—and we lie easily and frequently to exaggerate both our injuries and our successes, even as we blame others for our own misdeeds or failures. We put up with nothing we don’t like. We believe what we prefer to believe. Deep down, we are hopeless that things will get much better. We easily collapse into self-pity or rage or both. And we end soon and badly.

Some of us are hungrier for love than we need to be: we’re not taking in what’s right there for us. Empty and sad and angry, then, we have nothing good to pass on.

God help us to love, yes, and in particular to recognize and receive the love he is trying to give us: through family members, through friends, through colleagues and neighbours, through the good circumstances and pleasures of our lives, through the delights of nature and of art, through the promises and encouragements of the Bible, through the companionship of fellow spiritual travelers, and through immediate communion with him in prayer.

For if we continue to feel unloved, we will not love.