By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fr. Philippe on the Three Axes of Love

Continuing the Called to Life book series, I now turn to the author's treatment of love. The three axes of love are love of God, of neighbor, and of self. What is healthy self-love? It is "the grace to live in peace with one's self, consent to be what one is, with one's talents and limitations" (p. 69). Notice that such self-love produces humility, rather than pride. If one accepts one's unique talents and limitations, one does not need to compete by crushing or diminishing others or by obtaining constant self-affirmation by displaying oneself as somehow more intelligent or better than others. As St. Francis De Sales said, "Be who you are and be that well." Below are some other points from this part of Chapter 4:

1. Being at peace with oneself makes for peace with others: "Many conflicts with others are projections of conflicts with ourselves: I refuse to put up with the failings of others because I do not accept my own. If I am not at peace with myself, I make others pay for my unhappiness" (70). That is a good working definition of a personality disorder, of which there are plenty even among very outwardly pious and devout individuals, even clergy.

2. By loving others, we discover ourselves: "If one is unbending and hard toward others, one's own misery will shortly be disclosed, whereas one's forgetfulness of self in order to love others leads to self-discovery" (71). That is why some rigid, traditionalist types can never have their personalities healed.

3. To accept God's love for me, I must get rid of certain obstacles to healthy self-love: pride, perfectionism, and fear of rejection (71).

4. "Rejecting God leads to self-hatred" (71). I have seen cases where this may not be applicable, but I think that those are especially the cases of persons blessed with very good upbringings with parents who did not themselves reject God. Yet, the case remains that to experience the unconditional love of the Father is the "surest path" to self-acceptance and self-esteem, although some get there without believing in God (and, even in such cases, I believe that they do so by the grace of God, even if unaware of his role).

5. "The core of one's personality, the ground of that intimate security everyone needs, resides upon the dual certainty of being loved and being able to love. . . . Only God can guarantee this double certainty: only he loves us with an entirely unconditional love and only he assures us that, despite our limits, his grace can create in our hearts a true aptitude for loving, for being able to receive and being eager to give" (73). Only God can provide that certainty. Other humans cannot. This dual certainty makes our joy possible and makes it possible to give joy to others, even in the face of rejection and lack of gratitude.