Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Love is not just a feeling. It is a decision that changes everything.

As a confessor-priest, I have heard so many confessions that expose the deepest depths of the penitent’s hearts.  While they truly are varied in what they have been struggling with, whenever it comes to the great challenges of a person, one of the most common angst is that many of the penitents have a great struggle when it comes to loving those who are close to them.  These could be members of their own family, or even those to whom these penitents are married to.  What is common is that many of them tell me that they do not ‘feel’ like loving.  I have a strong suspicion that this is the crux of the problem.  So many people only love when they ‘feel’ like loving.  Many emotions contribute to this feeling – emotions like being light-headed, being warm in the heart, or hearing over and over again the usual words that people utter when they are expressing their love and concern for the other.  While they are not wrong in themselves, just basing love on such feelings isn’t really love at a deep level.


What constitutes love is far more than just feelings alone.  Love is truly a decision that one makes to love another, regardless of how great the feelings are that well up in the depths of our hearts.  One spiritual guru I had the benefit of knowing in my Catholic life mentioned this “decision to love” when he taught about how we develop our love for God.  It is basically a decision that the disciple makes in the heart to love God who is not seen with the eye.  This decision to love surpasses the many challenges that any disciple of Jesus may face in the journey of growing to know and love the immutable God.  Certainly, challenges can come in the form of feeling desolate and maybe even abandoned by God.  But when the relationship of love is one that is based on a decision to love, these desolations should not be things that can cause a disciple of Christ to renounce or relinquish that all important relationship with God.  In fact, it is in being persistent in deciding to love God despite all these challenges that will show how strong one’s love of God is.  This principle can be easily applied to the times one devotes to prayer in life.  People pray for many different reasons, but one of the chief reasons to pray to God is because one loves God.  To base the rationale for prayer on the feelings that one gets when praying, or the delight that it gives to the heart, are very flimsy and weak reasons for prayer.  In fact, the theological virtues of faith, hope and love need to surpass any other reasons for spending time in prayer to God.


When we reduce love to anything else other than a firm decision to love, we make it something so unstable and flimsy.  And I believe that this is the main problem with so many people who are unable to reach out to their family and fellow man when it comes to displaying stable and strong love.  So many are relying on the feelings that they have in their hearts for these people who God has placed in their lives.  Once a person truly understands that love is more a decision than the feelings that loving others give their hearts, the slightest reason to not love the other becomes the reason one gives up on living in steadfast love toward the other.  If this is true for the link between two or more human beings, it is far more true for the link between a human person and God.  This principle is the same for those who transgress another person in life.  Forgiveness is hard, but it is made more meaningful when the forgiveness is based on the fact that one has made a decision to love, rather than just sentiments which are fleeting and subjective. 


I am not concerned with who reads my posted blogs on this website, but whoever it is who has logged in to today’s post, I sincerely hope that it sheds new light on how important it is that we base our love toward those who are in our family and maybe even work circles that we should move toward basing our relationships with these people on a decision to love.  It doesn’t just make loving more meaningful, but it also makes the pain of forgiveness when wronged less of a struggle.  On top of this, we need to frequently reflect on the fact that God has made a divine decision to love us when he made us.  God doesn’t need to love us, but because it was based on the goodness of God’s will, God’s love becomes so much more meaningful to us.  Our living just and righteous lives then becomes something that we naturally want to do in order to return this undeserving love of God to its divine origins. 


When we come to this realization, each time we gaze upon a crucifix with the corpus of Christ nailed to it, our hearts ought to beat anew with a strong heartbeat of love.