Ian Joyce, joyceih@muohio.edu

In my last essay, I wrote about our culture’s concept of love and on the essence of what (or who) True Love is, under the impression it would be my only chance before Valentine’s Day to do so. Luckily, I have two more opportunities, so I decided to expand a bit since there is plenty to expand on.

I ended the first article on a note that was probably unfavorable, mentioning, “our greatest feat is in saying we somehow understand True Love and need none of him ourselves, because we are somehow ‘loveable enough.'”

In what way do we often claim to understand love, True Love in particular? I am going to assume that the first mentions will break down love as kindness and, because of that kindness, forgiveness. Yet as true as these are, it is not as simple as we like to make them.

What makes love kind is that it has in mind what is most beneficial for its recipient. But how often do we associate kindness with the word nice? Being nice is not being kind — being nice is saying something or being someone who makes another feel better. Being kind is saying something or being someone who actually does something to benefit that person, or creates a change in that person to actually make them a better person.

You and I, well we ourselves are the benign, benevolent rulers of our little world — we “kindly” make our friends laugh (which makes them feel better) and we “kindly” hold the door open for at least one stranger a day (which certainly makes us all feel better). It is easy to fancy ourselves as such, especially when we are temporarily happy.

Yet, when our circumstances don’t happen to go our way and we become particularly sour, we certainly have justifiable reasons for snapping. It is certainly no problem with me or with my heart, but with them and with their heart — or certainly this circumstance is to blame, and my reaction need not heed any responsibility, for I am now under no obligation to make anyone better but me.

And certainly since love is forgiving, we are forgiven for these moments of “mere imperfection.” Yet it is impossible for us to be forgiven of that which we never take responsibility for.

Imagine your dad gives you a rule that you can’t go out of the house past 10 p.m. because it is unsafe to drive. Also he will not let you go to a particular friend’s house when that friend calls at 10:01 p.m. because it is past 10. “Daddy is mean. He is not nice.” Ah, but Dad is being kind. He has said, and statistics would back him up, that he is acting in what is truly your best interest. Now imagine you, frustrated that Mom agrees and that you had a terrible day at school, decide to go anyway because it isn’t that big of a deal.

Besides, your friend’s house is five minutes away. Now when you come back, and your Dad is angry, you become sour at his harshness towards you.

You object it was the day you had at school, the frustration at Mom, which was the cause of being rebellious. “I’m sorry Dad, why can’t you accept that?” Dad refuses to accept your pitiful apology (which is different than asking for forgiveness) because you aren’t yet humble enough to bow beneath the responsibility of the actions you took as being your own choice. “Dad is not nice,” and he certainly doesn’t seem kind. Our ability to see kindness within the forgiveness of True Love depends upon our ability to see the need for such.

True Love was held up on wooden beams in deep kindness to forgive a people who not only refused to see their need for it but also willingly advocated for Him to be put on it.

True Love made a self-willing sacrifice to consider the needs of the recipients and to completely meet them. That is the ultimate display of compassion; and how I wish Valentine’s Day were filled with compassion as thus.