The Greek tale of Narcissus is a potent warning I find against our modern temptation toward self-love. The legend describes the charming lad coldly rejecting every potential spouse, only to be tricked into falling in love with a form he sees in the clear waters of a pool. When he realizes his beloved to be a mere reflection of himself, his longing fruitless, commits suicide. Though an extreme metaphor, the story sheds light on the destructive path that absolute self-love can take in our lives. As we approach Valentine’s Day, here are some thoughts on true love which focus on the ‘other’ and not on the self.
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
When youngsters today repel deep friendships for privacy or fear of hurt, I am reminded of a perceptive line CS Lewis wrote. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” Unless we are willing to be vulnerable by letting our schedules be messed up, sharing our weaknesses and burdens, we will miss out on friendship. It could very well end up in backstabbing and hurt, but God expects us to keep building friendships just like His unrelenting love; eventually ending up with few good friends. It is interesting how Lewis emphasizes the need for brotherhoods/sisterhoods since the line between friendship and romance is thin when opposite sexes are involved. The wise King Solomon advises the young to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” as a warning against entering romantic relationships before we are ready to enter the covenant of marriage.
In marriage, the worry is often about finding the partner suitable for us, the one that fits us like a glove- The right person. But in reality, “we always marry the wrong person” as Stanley Hauerwas emphatically claims. He even goes on to say, “We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry ‘the right person’, just give it a while and he or she will change. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.” Through the daily grace of God, the husband is called to model Christ’s self-giving love and the wife strives to be a beautiful bride without blemish. This is the honest pattern of true love and Christ is our supreme model and example to follow.
In this season of love, let’s pursue love that is founded not only on emotions, physical attraction, and compatibility, rather a conscious decision to do what is best for the other person instead of ourselves.
Dipin V Panicker is working as a livelihood consultant with Govt of Meghalaya and is part of Tura EGF, Meghalaya.