Love and fear appear to be the primordial motivators in our lives. No other primary orientation seems to underpin our way of being-in-the-world than these two outlooks.
Love and fear present with a choice, time and time again. Will I act in the situation that I’m in based on love, or on fear? This, it seems to me, is one of the basic questions that will determine so much of the way that we live.
This is not to say that we discard one for the other; that a loving person will cease to fear or that a fearful person is incapable of love. Instead, a person who has chosen love will always define fear in terms of love. They will ask questions like, “How is it that fear keeps me from loving?” and “What is it that my fear is trying to communicate to me?”
The person who chooses fear, on the other hand, similarly defines love in terms of fear. The recipients of our love are now objects to protect at all costs, for losing them would be unbearable. This also makes loving much more difficult–and in many cases impossible–simply because the threat of loss and pain wrapped up in love are so great.
I believe that most of us aspire to love, yet fall into fear all the same as our primary standpoint. We allow our love to be calculated, doled out in reserved measures, because we’re afraid that we might not have enough. And yet, as John Caputo is fond of saying, “The only measure of love is love without measure.”
Love is painful as well as beautiful, and it takes people made of some serious stuff to recklessly give it away, to give without giving pause to wonder if they have enough. And it is the impossibility of living this type of love that points us, in fear and trembling, into the arms of Christ, who embodied more perfectly than any other person the beautiful insanity of love.
6 responses to “Love and Fear”
This is good. It reminds me of my Dad’s song inspired by Henri Nouwen called “House of Love.” If you haven’t heard it, take a listen on his site: http://www.rogerflyer.com/
also habit, cruise control. the way we function, through trial and error we decide what works, what are loving things, and what doesn’t work. set up by these stipulations it’s easy to be unaware of how we aren’t loving or are fearful, because we aren’t paying attention anymore.
Ry: Terrific song, for sure.
Steph: Habit is huge, you’re right. So many choices become unconscious through repetition, which paradoxically makes every choice that much more important…
This very issue has been extensively addressed in the movie “Donnie Darko”. The main character objects to the placement of love and fear on opposite ends of a spectrum.
And I agree with that. Love and fear are two of our strongest primal emotions but are not our only primal emotions. There are more than two ends to this spectrum.
It was nice until the last paragraph.
Ryan: Thanks for the comment. I haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know how the character addresses things.
You’ll note that I didn’t use the word “emotion” in what I wrote because I don’t believe that love and fear are, at root, emotions at all. I think that they are more primal than emotions, although they of course produce a whole array of emotions. For instance, I would say that hate (an emotion) grows out of fear (a general outlook on the world). Indeed, calling these root outlooks “love” and “fear” is very problematic, as they tend to be taken as emotions.
This is a great post. I see more clearly the motives behind my actions and words. Excellent. Thanks.