Articles : Love: Its Individuality and Otherness

Posted on: 2016-01-04
Source: Rev. Fr. PeterPaul A. Akinola


If there be any terminology which today is as confusing as it is employed, I beg to posit that it is LOVE. In its numerous and varying usage, many tend to ascribe to it a sense that makes it difficult to objectively understand what it is all about. Without doubt, this is an expected reaction at least from the perspective of the Christian religion, for if God is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8) and His nature is that of an All-Encapsulating Being, which is never going to be fully known to any of its encapsulated beings, then love itself as a human activity cannot be fully described! However, the fact of not being fully describable does not in any way equate to being wrongly described. In this sense, while there may be various thesis about love and its expressions, these are supposed to be complementary rather than opposing.
How is love perceived today?

Without much argument, we can identify two basic divides of the perception of love in our age and time. One, there are those who emphasize its individuality. To this group, the genuineness of love lies in its assertion and satisfaction of self - a love that does not satisfy self, denies self and since the self is the surest existence, such a love negates the very essence of being.

To adherents of this view, love does not consist in giving unless it brings to the self a receiving that is of greater value. As such, the Other is nothing but an instrument to the self affirmation of Self existence. Modesty thence can be practiced only as it concerns the wellness of the self and has nothing to do with the Other; the Self cannot be in anyway sacrificed for the Other as that in it very self will contradict the meaning and value of love.

On the other hand, there are those who hold to the other half of the divide. To these, love has to be Other-based and the self is to be completely denied. Extreme adherents are of the view that whatever is done with the self as basis is wrong and contradicts the very notion of love. Every action therefore is to be others’ oriented even if it brings pains and discomfort to the Self.

Considered in its face value, both notions are not without their own merits, but when integrally observed, it would be seen that both are erroneous when taken independently of the other.
God is Love

Why exactly did God create humans? This question is expedient because it gives us an insight into what the divine nature consist of, in such a way that we ourselves can strive to be more configured to His likeness. If creation is an act of love, then, what was (is) the motive behind creation? Did God create us for His own self happiness or for ours? If our creation is solely for the self gratification of God, then in all certainty, He would not have created us with freedom - which enables us to decide and choose what to do - sometimes even contrary to the will of God.

From the other perspective, if God’s creation of us is solely for our self indulgence and gratification, it would be totally absurd that the same God calls us to perfection as Himself is perfect. The fact of our creation and having been given the gift of freedom, coupled with God’s requirement of us to be perfect as He is points to the encompassing nature of love, that is, its inclusion of the Self and the Other!
Is it possible to love self and at same time the other?

Here lies the main difficulty of love, but likewise its uniqueness, that the giving of love is based on receiving and its death is based on living! Nevertheless, the receiving does not determine the giving but it is contained in it. The acknowledgement of the Other and our readiness to be fair to the other is for the sake of self affirmation, for our existence, even though it is self-evident, needs others’ confirmation to be meaningful. Also, the confirmation of the Other is only a projection of our Self.

Love does not entail a grasping of self but its donation, however, this donation is not a wasteful donation of something that lacks value, but springs from an appreciation of Self which enables us to detect that the Self is worthy of being donated. Thus, in the giving of the Self, we find a greater affirmation for the Self and in the appreciation of the Other, we confirm that which in turn makes our Self-existence meaningful.

True love therefore is not an “either... or” event, but a “You-in-I, I-and-Thou reality.” Our individuality and the otherness of the others complement each other in making love what it is supposed to be, and a denial of any of these two is nothing but a denial of love itself.