My wife was working an overnight shift not long ago and I had the apartment all to myself. I used that time to think about my love for her and, more specifically, the metaphysical price of that love. I thought about how my love grows exponentially with each year that passes, the grief I would feel if she died tomorrow, and then marveled at the level of suffering that awaits the first one of us to pass away many decades (I hope) from now.

Translation: The price of love is sorrow. We are all debtors to love. There is no escaping it, and anyone who truly engages in such a conscious act of the will towards another human being must pay the bill.

Given this truth, it is reasonable to conclude that many of the perpetually angry people you encounter on a day-to-day basis (whether online or in person) take on that state as a kind of defense mechanism. They may not even be conscious of it, but on multiple levels they are scared of sorrow and, by extension, terrified of truth.

“Okay Doug, that’s all well and good,” you say. “But why is this relevant to my life?”

The answer, dear reader, is that how you answer life’s big question — “Why are we here?” — will determine how you absorb and process the inevitable love-born sorrows to come. If the love within us is infinite (while paradoxically being able to grow within our finite bodies), then a commensurate level of pain will ensue as a result of losing a spouse or a child. If you have not seriously pondered the aforementioned question, then it behooves you to begin now, as on some level you too are running from truth.

The longer a man runs from the truth, the more likely it is that his final destination will be a place of hatred, anger, and spiritual unrest.

The follow-up response now becomes, “Okay Doug, but how do you plan on absorbing grief?”

This is where I humbly submit to my non-Catholic friends that all I have is an answer as viewed through my own faith. Even if you do not agree with my conclusions, I hope that there is something — no matter how small — that helps to comfort you in the years to come.

It is my assertion that many American preachers you see on television who subscribe to what has been called the “prosperity gospel” are, besides perverting the Christian faith, setting people up for spiritual and psychological failure. They want to experience the Glory of God without the Cross. They weirdly stress the idea that material wealth springs from faith in the Lord when, in actuality, one should dwell in the Crucifixion of Christ: It is through the Passion that we gain self-knowledge and (although counter-intuitive to non-believers), peace and joy.

Saint Catherine’s The Dialogue is perhaps one of the best sources for understanding this concept. The 14th century mystic’s encounter with God produced the following:

“The willing desire to bear every pain, even death, for the salvation of souls is very pleasing to me. The more the soul endures, the more it shows that it loves me. By loving me, it comes to know more of my truth. The more it knows, the more pain and intolerable grief it feels at the sins committed by others against me.

You asked me to sustain you and to punish the faults of others in you. You did not say that you were really asking for love, light, and knowledge of the truth. I have already told you that as love increases so do grief and pain. Those of you who grow in love also grow in sadness. I say to you all, if you ask, I will give it to you, for I do not deny anything to the one who asks of me in truth.

The love of divine charity is so closely joined in the soul with perfect patience that neither can leave the soul without the other. If the soul chooses to love me, it should choose also to endure pains for me in whatever way that I send them. Patience cannot be proved in any way other than suffering, and patience is united with love.”

There is much more to unpack here than a single blog post would ever allow, but for brevity’s sake let me once again reiterate that anyone who wants to fully experience love must also willingly accept that they can only do so by embracing pain, suffering, and sorrow.

A Catholic man knows that when he suffers for love — true love — he can rest easy, as he is being drawn closer to Christ on the Cross.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

13 comments

    1. “Without a doubt your BEST post ever!”

      Thanks, Bill. That means a lot to me. 🙂 It really does. If posts like this help even one person, then it makes me happy.

    1. “Amen! This is just awesome.”

      Thanks, insanitybytes22. I’ve said this before, but I’m über grateful to have you as a reader for so many years. I always appreciate your feedback and contributions to the comments section.

  1. Love is such a fascinating subject, from a biblical perspective. I have spent many a Sunday School lesson on love, true love.

    As I am fond of saying to my students, love at it’s best is defined as an action, an act of will. But this post makes me think of the Newton’s third law. If love truly is an act of will, then there must be a corresponding reaction of sorrow. This is not in itself a bad thing, as to truly live a self sacrificing love is our calling, but it does give a stark reminder that giving so much of ones self always comes at a cost. Christ was willing to pay that cost, are we.

  2. Absolutely wonderful.

    Whatever else my failures in my faith, this…that life is the acceptance…no, the embrace of grief and pain has not left me,

    If I could just add one thing…it’s important to be aware that the fear of grief, of loss, isn’t something we should just contemplate in ourselves, but also with those who love us, and even those who fail us. As you reminded me, I spent a lot of time on how I was wronged…rather than accepting, that our love for Christ, as with each other is imperfect.

    When we talked the other day about certain fathers…I wonder if they cannot say the words…not out of habit or culture…but because the pain is simply too great…and if that is so…perhaps my father loves me far more than I ever gave him credit for.

    1. “When we talked the other day about certain fathers…I wonder if they cannot say the words…not out of habit or culture…but because the pain is simply too great…and if that is so…perhaps my father loves me far more than I ever gave him credit for.”

      That is a good point, Chuck. I would say that it’s a distinct possibility. A lot of things changed for me when I realized that my “job” doesn’t include deciphering the code to my loved ones’ hearts — I just need to love them to the best of my ability and to forgive them for behaviors only God understands.

      At the end of the day I have no clue what is going on in the hearts of men around me. I only know my own. And God knows everything. I think this frustrates many people because they want to use other men as a measuring stick as to how good they are — but we can’t do that because, again, we can’t ever truly know what’s happening in another heart. The only acceptable litmus test, as far as I’m concerned, is Christ. Doing this is painful because we are reminded again … and again … and again … and again … how impossible it is, but that we must keep trying. There’s where more pain comes in, but with the tears we experience enormous spiritual growth as we move closer to our true selves.

  3. Let me start by saying that I agree with much of what you are saying here. The “prosperity gospel” always amazes me since it seems like (to use internet lingo) Jesus DESTROYED (in all caps) the entire premise in the story of the rich young ruler. The reason the disciples were so shocked by Jesus turning the man away was because they had been taught that prosperity -> favor from God, so now being told that it is not and was, in many cases, a hindrance to their salvation blew their minds scanners style.

    I also agree with your main premise in that it is in our sorrow that we learn to love. Real long lasting relationships are usually formed when 2 people are going through something miserable together. This remains true whether that relationship is with a friend, a spouse, or God himself.

    However, this is where I disagree. I don’t think that fear of sorrow leads to hate. Or at least I don’t think that the path is nearly as linear or as automatic as you make it sound. Without going too much into the details of my life, I have loved many times: the father who walked out. The mother that I cared for both before and after, until she pushed me away after jumping quickly into another bad relationship. Friendships where I gave much, only to have us grow apart, and of course the many many failed attempts at what ultimately turned out to be one sided romance. I have known far far more of the sorrow that comes from love, and very little of the joy.

    So, I think, that if your logic were correct, that I would be a poster child for the anger and hatred of which you speak. But I don’t feel it. If anything, my fear of sorrow (which I will freely admit to having) has produced in me something far more akin to apathy than hate and is demonstrated in the form of opportunities skipped as I struggle to believe that there is any kind of payoff rather than in the form of rage. Perhaps I am an oddity in this, but I don’t think that I am.

    You speak specifically of the sorrow that comes from loss, but I don’t think that a man feels hatred of a fear of losing something but rather over what he has lost already. Or perhaps over what he has never had. We use much of what we do and much of what we have in an attempt to fill a void in our lives and when you lose it you have to find something to fill that void again. We immediately fill it with grief because it is the most natural thing to do. And this brings us back to the main idea because God wants us, eventually, to replace that grief with love and we never have greater opportunity than those grief filled moments to do so. However, it comes at a cost. As copperagecommentary states above, love requires an act of will and of strength and, in many cases, a willingness to change that we sometimes lack.

    Which brings us to the other choice in that we can also fill that void with hatred, which will eventually come at its’ own cost, but it is one that doesn’t seem so obvious at the time, especially when our loss is so great and the target of our hate is so deserving and our anger towards is so righteous.

    That is my 2 cents on it anyway.

    1. “I would be a poster child for the anger and hatred of which you speak. But I don’t feel it. If anything, my fear of sorrow (which I will freely admit to having) has produced in me something far more akin to apathy than hate and is demonstrated in the form of opportunities skipped as I struggle to believe that there is any kind of payoff rather than in the form of rage.”

      Nate, apathy is most certainly a form of hatred — a deep, deep self-hatred. Apathy is hopelessness, and when a soul is without hope it has willingly rejected God. Thomas Merton said the worst thing that ever happened to him (prior to his baptism) was the “consummation of my sins in abominable coldness and indifference, even in the presence of death.”

      Apathy is not a place you want to be, and you do not want to exacerbate the problem by deluding yourself into thinking that it is not intimately related to hate.

  4. “But I don’t feel it. If anything, my fear of sorrow (which I will freely admit to having) has produced in me something far more akin to apathy than hate…”

    Somebody smart once told me the opposite of love is not hatred, it’s actually indifference. Hatred is really just the flip side of love and requires about the same amount of investment and passion. Indifference is where we go when we really fear sorrow, sacrifice,and loss.

    Ha! I try to remember that when blogging. Haters gonna hate. Relax, it’s just the flip side of love. It’s their indifference that we should fear. 🙂

    1. “Somebody smart once told me the opposite of love is not hatred, it’s actually indifference. Hatred is really just the flip side of love and requires about the same amount of investment and passion. Indifference is where we go when we really fear sorrow, sacrifice,and loss.”

      You beat me to it. We’re on the same page. Apathy is reserved for someone who has plunged into the darkest depths of hatred. It is a very dangerous place to be.

  5. 🙂
    Another great post on spirituality! You bring up points on love that people don’t normally consider. Very thought provoking.

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