Intentional Love: Part A

     I only know of one way to write about love: personally. Everything in my life, from my personal philosophy to my professional practice, hinges upon my understanding and definition of love. So much so, that when I refer to love throughout the rest of this blog and in my other writings, it will be capitalized. This is to set it apart from the general population’s use of the word “love” to describe how they feel about everything from their family to various carbonated beverages. “love” has become a shadow of its former self and if I can restore the concept of Love to its former glory for just a few people, I will consider my life a success.
     I was sitting with a friend at restaurant and we were discussing Kierkegaard’s book, Works of Love (aka Ethics of Love). The server walked over, saw the book on the table, and asked what it was about. We both froze for just a moment because the book is such an intensely in-depth study of the concept of Love as it applies to various settings; it was difficult to say what the book was precisely about. In a moment of panic I did the best I could do and said, “It’s a book that tells you how to know if you’re really in Love”. That seemed good enough for her, probably because she wasn’t that interested in the first place, but for me the answer seemed very hollow. I decided that, right then and there, I would have an answer the next time someone asked me about Love.
     Love, as defined by Kierkegaard, is an infinite debt to another, willingly taken on (Works of Love, 2009, p. 172-173). When asking ourselves, “What is the most Loving action in in this situation?”, there are three basic facets of Kierkegaard’s definition that must be considered: (1) Intent, (2) Infinity, & (3) Indebtedness. This post will address the Intentionality necessary for true Love. The next two will address its Indebtedness and Infiniteness.
     Part of Kierkegaard’s definition is that the infinite debt of love must be “willingly” taken on. In order for this to be the case, we must Love others on purpose. This may sound like a trivial point, but it is most certainly not. How often in popular dialogue do people talk of “falling in love”? People do not fall on purpose. Falling implies a lack of intent or awareness; as if love was something they happened into or was sprung on them by surprise. While attraction and the emotions result may in fact happen unexpectedly, that is not Love. It is more likely that is hormones. Or beer goggles. Or both.
     Love, true Love, requires an intentionality of commitment that regardless of what the other person does, who they become, or how horribly they fail, we will continue to be in relationship with them. Please do not take this to mean that people should stay in relationships that are abusive. There will be another post about why staying in an abusive relationship is the least Loving action possible. For now, it should suffice to say that it is almost never acceptable or Loving to remain in abusive relationship.
     The point that must be adhered to is this: once I enter into a relationship of Love, I cannot truly leave. Therefore, entering into Love relationships must be done with the utmost Intentionality and forethought possible. The initial condition for Love is a commitment, made willfully and intentionally, to the best of our ability. Anything less will inherently doom the relationship to temporality; even if there is no separation.
There is a great deal more to be said on this particular topic, but it’s not within the scope of this blog. Please click this link to be redirected to a Forum topic titled “Love”, as I would like to encourage more dialogue on this. Also, leave a comment on your thoughts about intentionality as it relates to Love.

One Reply to “Intentional Love: Part A”

  1. Recently I've been thinking (& writing) about the concept of permanence. This may (or may not) relate to Kierkegaard's notion of infinite debt of love.

    The line of thought (which is a uniquely Western cultural value) is that impermanence negates importance or value.

    One Facebooker commented about a blog documenting how the universe will eventually implode (in X billions of years), and how she found that very troubling.

    Several family members find great comfort in their belief in a permanent heaven – the key factors being, it's permanent and it's static. It never changes. Wow, who would want the same scenery, the same people/souls, the same foods (LOL) day after day after day…I propose that would be more hellish than heavenly.

    More importantly, many of those family members *need* you to believe in their exact beliefs as well, or it somehow negates or undermines their life decisions. If we step back & look at this with a critical eye, it's quite a bizarre belief system, isn't it?

    By contrast, one of my favorite authors Ann Wilson Schaef argues that "process" is the ultimate value (the process of love, etc). She even suggests that God is a process – nothing static at all about he/she/it/they.

    The discussion board doesn't appear to be complete yet, but I am curious how and why others find comfort in permanence (or love, relationships, or anything really). Another author (Charlie Kreiner, also a MFT) suggests that terror is the primary driving force in our thoughts & actions – is that an underlying tension of existentialist questions?

    -Paul H

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