Have you ever loved someone who hates you?
If you haven’t, or don’t, then you’re missing out on one of the greatest graces in the earthly human experience. I’m not sure how one could even begin to understand Christ Crucified if they have never shared in the foundation of His Passion, what I will henceforth call “non-contingent love”. To look upon a crucifix is to look upon Love, but not just reciprocal love as most people experience it: I love you, but ONLY IF you love me back. If you don’t return my love, then I will stop loving you.
That is NOT love. That is egoism, in all of its narcissistic glory. And yes, here is where Ayn Rand’s “rational self-interest” gets smashed to dust and why her little world is every bit as disordered and doomed to failure as the Marxist world.
Let’s go through examples that everyone can easily relate to. First, the love of parents for children. Infants do not love. Infants are completely self-centered and are incapable of self-sacrifice for another. They are totally, completely dependent on others for their survival, and are incapable of feeling or showing gratitude, and beyond that will keep the people who provide for their survival up all night with no thought for their reciprocal well-being. Any yet… parents love their children. Grown adults in their prime feel such profound love for these screaming little poo factories that they would without hesitation die in order to save the lives of their children who as of yet do NOT reciprocate their love. This is a form of non-contingent love.
Even as children grow older and become adults and fall into drugs and crime and perversion, some of whom viciously betray their parents in the process, most parents report that a wounded yet unshakable love always persists. They can never, ever truly hate or be completely indifferent to their children, no matter how horrific the childrens’ descent and betrayal may be. Sadly, many children are put on the path to ruin by parents who do indeed inordinately desire reciprocal love from their children and thus do not properly form and discipline the children in their formative years.
Now you might be wondering how this could possibly apply to marriage. How could spousal love NOT be contingent upon reciprocity? Isn’t reciprocal love the point in marriage? Not according to the vows. Proper, traditional marriage vows actually STRESS non-contingent love between spouses. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part.
If your spouse comes down with Alzheimer’s Disease and in the early-to-mid stages becomes cruel and hateful toward you (as is not uncommon among Alzheimer’s patients), do you stop loving them? Once your spouse is incapable of returning your love due to some physical limitation does your love for them then automatically evanesce? The answer should be “no”. “Divorcing” a stricken spouse is, of course, morally illicit and betrays the deeply flawed nature of the love between the two when both were in full health.
I heard a very moving anecdote once about a traditional Catholic woman who was stuck in a Novus Ordo parish with, naturally, an extremely poorly educated priest. As is sadly common these days, the woman’s husband left her out of the blue after 30 years of marriage and took up with another woman. This woman’s parish priest urged this lady to get an annullment and join the parish’s “mature singles” club and “move on”. This was the woman’s reply:
Father, I am still married and will be married until the day either I or my husband die. Just because my husband has chosen to not honor our perfectly valid marriage vows and no longer loves me does not alter the validity and permanence of those vows or my love for him. Just because my husband has chosen to commit adultery within our marriage, this does not void our marriage and certainly does not give me some imagined “right” to also commit adultery. I am Mrs. John Q. Smith, Father, and I would appreciate it if you would kindly remember that.
Pow. While reciprocity in marital love is certainly a wonderful thing, even marital love should NOT be contingent upon reciprocity.
And this brings us to the true manifestation of caritas (charity, or love) in the world. We must love people in TRUTH and in HONESTY, not allowing our desire for our love to be reciprocated to prevent us from loving in ways that appear or seem “unkind”. If your toddler child is about to drink from a bottle of drain cleaner, do you not lunge at the child, yelling, and then smack the bottle out of the child’s hand – even though the child will speciously perceive your actions to be “mean” or even “violent” and then cry in anger at your reaction, which was borne completely on love?
In the same way, do we not tell the drug addict, the sodomite, or anyone else engaging in physically and/or spiritually lethal behavior that what they are doing is wrong and it is imperative that they stop even if that admonition means a reduction or elimination of their esteem for us? How is their reciprocal esteem for us even relevant at that point?
True, non-contingent love yields honesty.
False, narcissistic love is a seedbed of lies and manipulations.
We cannot properly understand Christ’s admonition to “turn the other cheeck” unless we understand non-contingent love. “Turn the other cheek” does not mean that we must allow evil and lies to run unchecked. “Turn the other cheek” does not mean commit de facto suicide before stating harsh truths, and this includes imposing justice, which is itself a fully-enclosed subset of Truth.
“Turn the other cheek” means that we do and say what we must in true charity, and then KEEP LOVING even when our love is returned with a blow, be it physical or emotional. The emotional blow can be either in the form of hatred, or in the form of indifference. The point is, the more you love someone in truth, the more likely it is in this fallen world, and particularly this day and age, that your love will NOT be reciprocated, and then *THE MORE YOU MUST LOVE THEM* with no expectation or demand that they ever love you back.
Given all of this, consider our current political and social system. Is our culture not totally contingent upon reciprocal esteem and quid pro quos? Is not every word and every action measured by the amount of popularity it generates, with power and wealth coming behind as corollaries? Is the need to be “liked” not central to most people’s existence? No one will do the right thing or stand up for the truth because to do so would mean public scorn and ridicule, followed by loss of wealth and property, and THAT is the worst possible outcome according to this horrificly perverted culture.
Oh, it hurts. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. It hurts when your beloved is indifferent toward or hates you. But think of how Christ feels, and then realize that YOU are the one who callously and maliciously refuses to return His love with every sin and every ingratitude. Then realize that He still burns with unquenchable love for you, and use that realization to turn around and love others without requiring or demanding reciprocity.
He told us. Repeatedly. He told us that we would be hated by the world. He told us that we would be persecuted, both in macro contexts and in little ways in our individual day-to-day lives. And then He showed us by dying for us at our own hand, never for a second depriving any of us of our freedom to choose our own actions or whether or not to Love Him. Only tyrants demand reciprocal “love”, which is no love at all, and is at its core, extremely cowardly. Be brave. Love. Ferociously. And when your love is not reciprocated, persevere, love more. That’s how you know it’s genuine.