Everybody thinks about the love they need. Few think of the love that others need.
Most of the songs we enjoy are about our own need for love and not about the love others need. I was trying to think about a song that was about the joy of loving others. My mind went to Jefferson Airplane’s “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love?” Then, I read the lyrics. The song is more about a person who has made a wrong romantic choice about the author of the song. Sure enough, Darby Slick had just experienced a breakup before writing the song. The person who is addressed is being rebuked for choosing the wrong person. They messed up. Not as noble as it first may sound.
The problem is that we all have trouble loving others. Parents may show real love and concern for their children but moving beyond that is very difficult. Why is loving others so hard? Let me give five reasons.
1. Our natural perspective is to see ourselves first. There’s nothing we can do about that. We see things from our own perspective. We see our own needs. We see our own inner world and no one else’s. We are always present to ourselves. There is a natural focus on self that is simply impossible to avoid, but it creates an obstacles to seeing the perspective of others. It will require more work.
2. Our natural self-perspective becomes exaggerated. We not only have a natural and legitimate focus on self, but it becomes illegitimate in all of us. We worry too much about ourselves. I would suggest that this is rooted in our alienation from God and our tendency not to trust Him as the source of love and provision. Without this anchor for our soul, our anxiety about our own needs runs wild.
3. Our excessive self-concern brings us into conflict with others. When people attack others, it is generally out of concern for themselves. They fear something may be lost. They see others blocking their goals. A husband does not feel respected, so he attacks his wife. His wife does not show respect because she does not feel loved. This creates a cycle of conflict (see Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ excellent book on this for a detailed explanation).
4. This conflict with others creates wounds. These wounds keep us from others. We need people, and we fear interacting with them because they have hurt us. We become more self-protective because of what people have done to us. This creates another layer of challenge in loving others.
5. We need wisdom and instruction to get back to loving well. Loving well is not easy. It takes some instruction and practice. Without some instruction, we will not learn how to love. It takes wisdom to know when and how to establish boundaries, when and how much to give, and how to love different types of people. That’s why love is an excellent characteristic that we can call a virtue. It is not easy, and it is rare.
Why is it valuable to know these things? Knowing reality is always our friend in the end. If we can see that it is hard to love and why it is hard to love, then we can start to learn to love. If we think it is easy or don’t know why it’s hard, it will be difficult to become a loving person.
In the next three posts, I will explain the resources of the Christian faith for helping us to become loving people. It is not enough to call oneself a Christian or become a follower of Jesus to be a loving person. The problem of loving others has to be pursued directly. It does not just happen automatically.
Becoming a loving person is one of the highest duties of human beings, according to Jesus. He said that God’s greatest desire and commandment for humans is that they would learn to love God and love others. This means that human destiny is found in the service of God and others.
How do we get there? That’s what we hope to explain, with God’s help, in the next couple of weeks.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you found it helpful, please share or subscribe below. Come back next week, and we will consider what love actually looks like. Blessings to you!