Love and Holiness

I don’t want to just leave this to a footnote in a Left Behind post, because it’s much, much more than just a footnote in the Gospels, in Paul and in the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures: There is no such thing as holiness apart from love.

This is a frequent, vehement, anvilicious theme in the Bible. Yet the confusion persists. We continue to hear arguments premised on the idea that God’s holiness is somehow distinct from and counter to God’s love. But there’s nothing holy about any notion of holiness that is not an expression of love. Divorced from love, holiness becomes a toxic counterfeit of what it claims to be.

To accuse God of having some concern for holiness separate from love is to accuse God of lying while here among us, because Jesus did not allow for such a distinction. Lots of others habitually made this distinction, setting holiness apart from and even above the commandment to love. Jesus constantly, relentlessly condemned them for it.

“Who touched me?” Jesus said, and when the bleeding, unclean, unholy woman “saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him.”

“He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’”

Anyway, I want to return to this point at greater length, but let me leave it at that for today because: 1) I’m running late getting ready for work, and 2) Trying to write about love and holiness has gotten the following song stuck in my head all day and, if you’re wise, you’d rather hear from the Rev. Green than from me anyway:

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  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    I would like to see more about this, but also about the different meanings of wrath.

  • Anonymous

    This is why I wish the phrase “love the sinner but hate the sin” would be retired. Because people who use that phrase don’t love, at all. If they did they would not use it. Your personal purity or percieved need for personal purity cannot trump someone in pain, or justify treating someone horribly.

    An episode of the 80s Twilight Zone example was a great example of this. A man is punished by being made “invisble” for a year, no one is allowed to talk to him or even acknowledge he exists. It nearly breaks him. A few weeks after his sentence is done another invisible passes him by and begs him to talk to her or even just look at her. He knows if he does he’ll get another year, he wavers but he can’t pass her by. The episode ends with him taking her into his arms and comforting her as the police drones close in. And going back to LB it’d be a cold day in Hell before you saw Buck or Rayford do anything like that.

  • Sarah Jane

    I… really have no idea what “holiness” is in a theological sense.

    At an intuitive level, though, I think of it as white-hot fire of raw creative energy that has the power to speak oceans into being, and also to utterly transform the human soul. Like love, it is visionary; not stuck in the fumbling reality of the present, but always seeing and seeking the very best possible way for things to become in the future.

    I think that kind of vision is what fueled Julian of Norwich’s famous declaration of “All shall be well.” And I’m pretty sure she was right.

  • Anonymous

    To accuse God of having some concern for holiness separate from love is to accuse God of lying while here among us, because Jesus did not allow for such a distinction.

    Alternatively, it could also indicate a non-Christian conception of God, love, and holiness.

  • Kevin Alexander

    I don’t know what holiness is in any sense. When they tried to teach it to me in school I think that I got it confused with having a fearful respect for some quality that some people had. As I got older I got to see that fear and respect are not the same thing.
    Anyway, I agree with Fred and would go even further. Nothing real or imaginary makes any sense, has any value without love. Everything else is just noise in the signal.

  • Anonymous

    When I was young, my Baptist-Sunday-School-driven idea of God’s holiness was a complete intolerance for sin (and, by extension, sinners). This was often backed up by Isaiah 6, the bit where Isaiah sees God, cries woe for he is a sinner, and kisses a coal that takes his sin away. (I have to admit I used to wonder why God couldn’t just send humanity some of that magic coal instead of going through the whole crucifixion bit.)

    Holiness was sometimes (implicitly) expressed to me less as an attribute and more as a force God radiated that was itself intolerant of sin. As in sinners literally, physically, spiritually can’t withstand God’s holiness. The image I eventually associated with holiness-as-force was the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis all melt.

    Now I find it easiest to treat the word as a synonym for “goodness”. The simplicity makes up for any theological inaccuracies.

  • Anonymous

    Alternatively, it could also indicate a non-Christian conception of God, love, and holiness.

    Er, Fred was writing explicitly from a Christian perspective.

  • Persephone

    I’m still trying to figure out how a holy figure who loves me is willing to torture me for the rest of time. I mean, I’m not holy at all, and I couldn’t stand to hold my child’s hand on a red-hot stove element for even a fraction of a second, let alone a long moment, a minute, an hour, a year, the rest of their life, or for all of time.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > This is why I wish the phrase “love the sinner but hate the sin” would be retired. Because people who use that phrase don’t love, at all.

    I don’t know about that. “Love the sinner but hate the sin” isn’t part of my lexicon (I don’t talk about sin much, and when I do my understanding of it is so radically different from my culture’s that I’m mostly talking to myself) but I endorse a sentiment that it could describe.

    There are behaviors that inspire all kinds of emotions in me… hate, fury, contempt, all kinds of stuff… that I don’t endorse, but am not free of. Sure, I would do better to be altogether free of them, and sometimes I manage that.

    But sometimes that’s beyond me, but I can still remember to focus that darkness on the behavior, rather than follow the habit of thought that makes me want to focus it on the person doing the behaving.

  • Anonymous

    5 minutes of Googling tells me that “holy” is derived from Old English “halig” – http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=holy – “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated.” But of course it’s really just the translation of the word “Sanctus,” which is hard to Google because you keep getting pages about the hymn.

    But I’m really getting a vibe that it’s like the opposite of “contaminated” and a synonym of “pure.”

  • Anonymous

    +1 Internet for use of “anvilicious”

  • Amaryllis

    I think it’s more related to the same roots as in “whole” and “healthy,” something which is undivided and unbroken.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Does this mean Fred is a Troper? >.>; Cause that would be pretty awesome. (I may spend entirely too much time on TVTropes. Maybe.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ouri-Maler/1017109188 Ouri Maler

    When I hear “holiness”, I think “goodness”. But this sometimes lead me to wonder…Is goodness entirely inseparable from love?
    Confession: I’m…not a very loving individual. Or a people person. I’m a natural loner, and I think the feelings of love and friendship others feel so strongly just don’t come naturally to me. I can like people, but it only goes so far.
    At the same time, I care – deeply – about morality, about doing the right thing. I strive to be a better person. I try to be helpful, to make the world a better place.
    So when I hear “there is no such thing as holiness apart from love”…Well, I’m not saying it’s not true. But it does make me raise an eyebrow, at least.
    Then again, I’m an atheist, so maybe my perception of holiness is just clunky. :P

  • Parisienne

    I don’t know if you necessarily have to be a people person to be loving (I’m not a natural people person either, if I don’t get enough time alone I get all antsy and anxious and in any case not particularly nice to be around).

    I think where Jesus had it right is that love is about what you do more than how you feel a lot of the time. Loving someone is about doing for them what you’d like them to do for you (although this gets complicated, ’cause maybe what they likes isn’t the same as what I likes). But anyway, loving is about trying to act in other people’s best interests and not just your own, which is different to wanting to hang out with them all the time and having lots of warm and fuzzy feelings.

    Also different people express love in different ways – for example my Dad is one of those people who say I love you with gifts. We can be wandering round the market or the shops and I’ll pick something up that I think is pretty, and straight away he’ll say “do you want it? I’ll buy it for you.” He’s not actually asking me if I want some earrings, he’s really saying “I love you”. I think it bigtime helps us to understand people when we figure out the different ways they express and respond to love. My Dad is never going to be one for big displays of affection, but I can still pick up that he loves me because I’ve figured out the gift-giving thing.

    Also Jesus said to love other people the same way we love ourselves. This means it’s ok to love, respect and esteem ourselves (indeed we even ought to – the more I love myself, the better my neighbour gets it when I love them the same way I love myself). Loving and respecting myself involves getting enough time to rest on my own. If I don’t do that, I think I’m actually hindering my ability to love other people as much as I can (because I’m all peopled out and then I get tired and irritable with them all). By the same token, for other people to love me, they need to leave me alone sometimes and not “love” me by trying to hang out with me for hours when I’d rather be chilling by myself.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Maybe it’s not that you don’t feel love for other people, but rather are unwilling to get that close?

    I don’t want to presume anything mind you; but, for myself, that’s very much how it is. I always, always keep my distance from others.

    Largely, this is because I’m also kind of a loner. I tend not to want interference with my personal ‘stuff’; and people, unknowingly, very often do exactly that. I also tend to be… standoffish, just as a matter of course. I have to know someone a very, very long time before I’m able to get beyond my pretty large personal space barrier. Even then it’s… difficult.

    It’s of course more complicated than that even, but the basic idea is: I have to hold people at arms length because, through little fault of their own, people tend to get into my space, and it just drives me up the wall. I can’t deal with it. (I go to the grocery store at 4am for exactly that reason; to give an example.)

    Nevertheless… I care. A lot. I think it’s largely because I’m also very empathic – I can easily put myself in someone else’s shoes (Or sometimes, I’ve already worn that pair.); and so I find myself trying (perhaps vainly, but the effort is there) to advocate for people who, nevertheless, I don’t really want to be around. >.<

    But I'd still say love is involved in that equation. Love doesn't necessarily have to imply a familial or romantic bond; it can be much simpler, and more basic. To love people in-general, basically.

    I guess the point (if you've managed to follow my rambling this far sorry if I’m not making sense) – is that love can be a much more nebulous force than what we usually hear about. It doesn’t have to be “I love you.” or even “I like you.” it’s just “I acknowledge you as another person, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”

    I dunno, that’s how I see it at least. I could be wrong. I could have completely missed the point even >< I hope not though.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Maybe it’s not that you don’t feel love for other people, but rather are unwilling to get that close?

    I don’t want to presume anything mind you; but, for myself, that’s very much how it is. I always, always keep my distance from others.

    Largely, this is because I’m also kind of a loner. I tend not to want interference with my personal ‘stuff’; and people, unknowingly, very often do exactly that. I also tend to be… standoffish, just as a matter of course. I have to know someone a very, very long time before I’m able to get beyond my pretty large personal space barrier. Even then it’s… difficult.

    It’s of course more complicated than that even, but the basic idea is: I have to hold people at arms length because, through little fault of their own, people tend to get into my space, and it just drives me up the wall. I can’t deal with it. (I go to the grocery store at 4am for exactly that reason; to give an example.)

    Nevertheless… I care. A lot. I think it’s largely because I’m also very empathic – I can easily put myself in someone else’s shoes (Or sometimes, I’ve already worn that pair.); and so I find myself trying (perhaps vainly, but the effort is there) to advocate for people who, nevertheless, I don’t really want to be around. >.<

    But I'd still say love is involved in that equation. Love doesn't necessarily have to imply a familial or romantic bond; it can be much simpler, and more basic. To love people in-general, basically.

    I guess the point (if you've managed to follow my rambling this far sorry if I’m not making sense) – is that love can be a much more nebulous force than what we usually hear about. It doesn’t have to be “I love you.” or even “I like you.” it’s just “I acknowledge you as another person, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”

    I dunno, that’s how I see it at least. I could be wrong. I could have completely missed the point even >< I hope not though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ouri-Maler/1017109188 Ouri Maler

    Hm. I don’t know.
    It’s true that most of the time, I’d rather be doing my own thing rather than involve other people in my little personal schedule. I guess I just like being able to do my stuff without having to account for anyone else. (Of course, exceptions need to be made. I do play RPGs with others, for instance.)
    I don’t *think* I’m afraid of letting people get close…It’s just that, I see how my family treats me, and it’s pretty obvious to me that while I like them just fine, they love me with a much stronger emotion than I recall ever feeling toward anyone.
    And then there’s other things. For instance, I’ve got this Internet friend who’s terribly depressive, to the point where I worry he might end up killing himself. And every now and then, I take it upon myself to help, try to cheer him up, try to give him hope, try to convince him to keep fighting this. But I often wonder WHY I’m trying to help him. If he really did go off the deep end, would it really bother me all that much, or would I just sigh, shrug, and move on? Am I just trying to help because I’m invested in my own self-image as a good person, because that’s how I judge my own self-worth? I don’t know.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I don’t think you give yourself enough credit to be honest.

    If you really were just in it for the feel-good of ‘doing a good deed’ – you would eventually roll your eyes and leave them high and dry. That you bother speaks to something more than that.

    And as someone who has been the depressed friend on the other end in this kind of scenario – just let me thank you for doing that. I would be dead if not for my best friend; it’s as simple as that. I’d also add, encourage your friend to get help – counseling or medication or both – because I can say from experience that it helps. A lot. It’s not a cure-all, but it certainly cuts back on the worst of it.

    Anyway though -

    I think what I was trying to get at before, that I perhaps didn’t explain well enough is this:

    Love doesn’t have to be an intensely felt always-noticeable emotion. It can be incredibly subtle; you won’t necessarily even realize it’s there right up until something tests that love, or endangers the person you care about. That is when it finally hits home just how much they actually mean to you.

    It’s also worth remembering that when you run through a hypothetical scenario, like “Would I really miss this person if they were gone tomorrow?” – you have to factor in the fact that you really cannot truly know. After all, they aren’t gone, and haven’t been – you won’t genuinely know how that will feel right up until it happens.

    Like I said, I don’t want to tell you how you feel or try to say how you even should feel… but what you say sounds incredibly similar to some things I’ve felt over the years; and that being the case I figure it’s worth mentioning my own experiences to see if that sheds a little light.

    So hopefully that’s useful. At a dead minimum, I can say with all seriousness that you don’t seem like someone who’s just in it for their own aggrandizement.

  • Anonymous

    I often wonder WHY I’m trying to help him. If he really did go off the deep end, would it really bother me all that much, or would I just sigh, shrug, and move on? Am I just trying to help because I’m invested in my own self-image as a good person, because that’s how I judge my own self-worth? I don’t know.

    If the question is ‘am I expressing love by doing this thing?’, then I’m not sure that the feelings that go with it really matter. And I doubt that anyone ever does anything for just one simple reason. We’ve all got mixed motives. If I do something good, I know that looks good to other people. Even if nobody else sees it, I know I did good, and that boosts my self-image. If I do something bad, there’s generally a few good reasons behind it, however misguided they are.

    All of which is a long-winded way of getting to: if you’re helping someone who’s struggling with depression, you’re doing something tremendously positive for their benefit without asking for anything in return, and that’s a way of loving them.

    Love doesn’t have to be a soul-stirring tornado or a fountain of pure goodness: there are some people out there who can manage those, but they’re pretty exceptional. Most of us do most of our loving in a humdrum sort of way, without feeling particularly full of the fluffy clouds of joy. Doesn’t mean it isn’t love.

  • Froborr

    Which would be why Fred has posted numerous articles arguing against the idea of Hell.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    To go with what Froborr said:

    http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2009/03/h-e-double-hockey-sticks.html

    Fred’s been posting about this for a long, long time. He ain’t down with the idea of Hell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ouri-Maler/1017109188 Ouri Maler

    And as someone who has been the depressed friend on the other end in this kind of scenario – just let me thank you for doing that. I would be dead if not for my best friend; it’s as simple as that. I’d also add, encourage your friend to get help – counseling or medication or both – because I can say from experience that it helps. A lot. It’s not a cure-all, but it certainly cuts back on the worst of it.

    Well, he’s already seeing a therapist, though the various forms of medication he’s tried (up to and including EST) haven’t helped, according to him. Then again, he tends to be exceedingly negative on nearly every subject, unfortunately.
    I hate to threadjack, but, as someone who’s been there too, do you have any further advice? I’m afraid I’m not feeling very effective…(Granted, I have no real way of knowing that for sure.)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I read this post when it first popped up and there were no comments, and I really wanted to just tell Fred that he’s awesome, but I couldn’t friggin log on all day from my work computer. Now the moment has kind of passed but still…

    Fred, you are awesome.

    Disqus, you are not.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > I’m still trying to figure out how a holy figure who loves me is willing to torture me for the rest of time.

    Well, if it helps, here’s how I think about it.

    (Caveat: no, I don’t subscribe to the following model. It’s my answer to how the situation Persephone describes could be true; I don’t assert that it is true.)

    I start by considering the non-eternal case… that’s easier to wrap my head around.

    The analogy I generally use is helping a friend go through intense withdrawal from, say, cocaine. Basically, they are going to suffer enormously, and my role is to prevent them from obtaining the one thing that will make that suffering stop.

    If it were food or water, we’d all agree that was torture; what makes it tolerable in the case of cocaine withdrawal is the belief that there’s a next stage, and it’s better than the stage of being a cocaine addict, and there’s no way to get there except through the awful stage. So we don’t call it “torture” in that case.

    Anyway, in that scenario I grit my teeth and cause them to suffer intensely, for a while, because the benefits are worth it.

    I’m not sure I could actually stand to do that for my child, if they needed it, but I’d like to think so. Certainly, I consider it the right thing to do, whether I could do it or not.

    (Of course, in the case of the traditional Christian model of God and Hell, you could reply “But this is an omnipotent being! He could just get rid of the addiction without the suffering!”

    And I would agree.

    I don’t know how to reconcile the traditional “omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent” trilogy with observed reality; I don’t think you can. Personally, I reject “omnipotent,” at least in its simplistic interpretation.)

    Eternal suffering is admittedly more complicated… where’s the payoff, in that case?

    The way I try to wrap my brain around that is acknowledging that we aren’t all isolated individuals… we influence one another, and how my brother is treated affects how I behave. Sometimes it makes sense to punish someone for doing something wrong, even though I know that the punishment won’t affect their behavior, because of the way it influences other people’s behaviors. Sometimes we are our brothers’ keepers.

    The classic example is the one-time harm. Suppose I live in a world where, every day, a randomly selected person is handed a button. If they press it, they get X benefit, and someone they don’t know suffers more than X. Then the button vanishes, and that person will never get the button again.

    Naturally, I’d prefer people not press the button.

    Is there any point to punishing Sam, though, if Sam presses the button? Well, by one way of thinking, there isn’t: it can’t possibly affect Sam’s behavior, since Sam will never get the button again anyway.

    But by another way of thinking, there might be: if I commit to punishing anyone who presses the button, then I reduce the number of button-presses, because people decide that (benefit + punishment) isn’t worth it. But for that to work, my commitment has to be credible, which means people have to see me following through on it.

    Which means that punishing Sam might reduce the number of button-presses in the world, and thus reduce the amount of suffering in the world. In which case it might be the right thing to do.

    (Of course, in the case of the traditional Christian model of God and Hell, you could reply “But that only works if you know the suffering is coming! In the case of Hell, you only know that if you have faith in the Christian model, so there’s no point to sending non-believers to Hell!” And I would agree.

    Although I’d also point out that, in the above example, that’s unfortunate: by keeping Sam ignorant of potential punishment, I increase his odds of pressing the button and thereby increase the amount of suffering in the world. In that model, by allowing us to remain ignorant of Hell, God causes us to suffer more on Earth.

    Cf “omnipotent” above. )

  • http://anoncollie.wordpress.com AnonCollie

    “Divorced from love, holiness becomes a toxic counterfeit of what it claims to be.”

    This, a thousand times this. I too often run into other Catholics who I have termed “super devouts” who pat themselves on the back for following the church with almost or no exceptions and silently or loudly crow about how holy they are. These are the same ones who lack compassion for the poor, and follow a conservative political and religious ideology to the letter.

    And they wonder why I and a lot of other Catholics are becoming disgusted with what modern Catholicism has become.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps the reason there is pain is because only then we are able to understand love, because how would we otherwise be able to expirience it?

    Love feels no burden, regards not labors, strives toward more than it attains, argues not of impossibility, since it believes that it may and can do all things. Therefore it avails for all things, and fulfils and accomplishes much where one not a lover falls and lies helpless.

    Thomas à Kempis

  • cyllan

    If the question is ‘am I expressing love by doing this thing?’, then I’m not sure that the feelings that go with it really matter.

    I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from A Wind In The Door:

    Love isn’t feeling…Love isn’t how you feel. It’s what you do.

    Love — the long term kind at least — is a fairly quiet emotion in my experience. Sure, it can flare up occasionally, but in general it’s something that sits in the background and manifests itself in soft ways.

  • Michael Straight

    This is why I wish the phrase “love the sinner but hate the sin” would be retired. Because people who use that phrase don’t love, at all. If they did they would not use it. Your personal purity or percieved need for personal purity cannot trump someone in pain, or justify treating someone horribly.

    Is it not possible for me to hate the things my enemy has done to me without hating my enemy?

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Well, the first thing to remember is this:

    Depression subverts the sufferer’s viewpoint.

    That means the person in question is going to see everything through a fog of doubt and pessimism at best. So right up front you’ve got to be able to understand that, what may obviously be plainly visible to everyone else (say – ‘you have friends and they care about you’) – may not feel true to the person suffering the disease.

    It also crams down your self worth something horrible; which can unfortunately lead to things like constantly apologizing for trivial things, assuming that people have abandoned them just because they haven’t talked in a couple days, and desperately needing attention.* Which can lead to behavior that person would not, under normal circumstances, engage in.

    Those are, sadly, all things I’ve personally done I’m speaking from direct experience there.

    I say all that say you can wholly understand my advice, since it’s hard for someone who hasn’t tangled with the disease directly to really understand what it does to someone’s perspective.

    So the simple advice is:

    1) Try to help them talk about things they like, or go in positive directions. This can be very, very hard to do, and will invariably fail a fair bit – but my psychiatrist mentioned – and I’ve come to agree, that while talking about your problems is healthy… doing it a lot can actually add to the depression. It leads to a sort of vicious cycle where you’re constantly dwelling on how screwed up you are.

    So, if a conversation is turning dark – unless you think it’s a situation where you really feel that person needs to share; it can be useful to try to turn their thoughts to something more pleasant and upbeat.

    Likewise, if they have a hobby, encourage them in it. In particular encourage them to grow in it – no one starts out great; it takes practice practice practice to do anything well. So there’s that too. (This was a big thing for me, I do writing and art; it’s easy to see your hobbies as pathetic when you’re depressed.)

    2) Hope and encouragement – This is definitely one of the biggest things imo. It’s also very very hard to provide; but just remind them that someone gives a shit now and again; and that life can get better. Since they’re already in therapy, encourage them to keep at it. Remind them too that it’s a process – there’s no such thing as ‘epiphany therapy’ where you suddenly feel fine.

    It’s taken me years to get to a vague level of stability. It’s taken a heaping ton of pills, years of therapy and a lot of hard introspection to get here. I’m still not where I want to be. Basically the point here is, remind them to set small, reasonable goals for progress, rather than just expecting to feel better instantly.

    3) Try not to let them dwell on the past too much. I’m not saying don’t listen; but where you can try to steer them to looking at the future. (This is of course subject to personal judgment – there are times when it’s best to just let them talk about the past; but if you’ve heard the same thing 20 times and there doesn’t seem to be any progress to be made going over it again, nudge em to think about going forward. Gently though, it’s not an easy thing to get through, especially if there’s more there than just the disease.)

    4) Finally… remember that ultimately you can’t fix their problem This is imo the hardest piece of advice to give; but it’s true. You can provide a shoulder to lean on, you can be a good friend… but ultimately it’s up to them on some level. They have to want to get better – which is a big chunk of the battle really; because it’s easy to be convinced that you cannot improve. (I was there at one point.)

    The point here is basically that, if they don’t improve – don’t beat yourself up. This is not an easy battle; and unfortunately it’s one that can only be won by the sufferer; all you can do is offer support.

    So yeah, that’s, imo, the basic stuff.

    Oh, one last thing:

    While I’m 100% sure any psychiatrist worth their salt has already told them this >.> encourage them to try to sleep consistently. I cannot begin to tell you the difference good night’s sleep can make. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but srsly. It’s hard to do sometimes, depression can make sleeping tough; but keeping a good routine can make a difference. At the very least it helps you feel a little more human. >.<; that's all culled from personal experience, both as a sufferer and being a shoulder to cry on for a few people at various points. I can't promise it'll work, or that it's applicable to every situation, but from my personal experience that's what's been useful.

    *This is one reason I particularly loathe cyberbullies who decide that it's hilarious to troll people who write about how depressed they are. Yes, some of those people are just trying to be 'cool' by way of angsting; but as you can imagine, trolling someone who's genuinely depressed does a frak-ton of harm. (I have a particularly high level of bitterness toward that kind of person. I'm not a fan of trolling by and large anyway, but that particular type of bullying makes me very angry.)

  • Anonymous

    The oposite of love is apathy: not giving a damn.

    In the screwtape letters there is a bit about nothing and how you can spend your years doing nothing.
    I believe that nothing can exist because it is only focusing on itself and is static where love is movement instead: you move to others and it moves back to yourself.

  • Anonymous

    “Love the sinner but hate the sin” isn’t part of my lexicon [...] but I endorse a sentiment that it could describe.

    It certainly could describe situations like, say, being the parent of a crack addict and doing everything possible to help the child get off the drug, but I can’t think of a single time I’ve heard it used that way in public discourse.

    I once saw a Christian advice column where someone was asking how to follow that phrase in practice – how to show Christian love to their gay neighbor without letting anyone get the impression they didn’t hate their neighbor’s gayness – failing to adequately love their neighbor would be forgiven by Jesus, after all, but failing to adequately hate homosexuality would make them lose face in front of their church. To that person, hating the sin (or, at least, being seen to hate the sin) was clearly more important than loving the sinner. And I think that’s been the case pretty much every time I’ve heard a public figure or writer use that phrase; it always means something like, “I have to pay lip service to the idea that God wants us to love everyone, but now it’s time to hate on the gays.”

    As the product of a mostly secular upbringing, I never spent much time thinking about the definition of holiness myself; whenever the subject came up I got the impression that it had to do with purity, maybe with some virtue mixed in, which I suspect is a fairly common view among those who like to hate on fellow humans with “impure” lifestyles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ouri-Maler/1017109188 Ouri Maler

    Thanks for the advice. Some of it I’ve already been following, I’ll see about the rest.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    It’s no problem at all Ouri; I just hope it’s useful!

  • Anonymous

    When I was in the (evangelical) church, people seemed to be of the opinion that you HAVE to separate God’s holiness from love, because the holiness is how you explain why he 1. orders genocide and 2. sends people to hell. They would at least admit that those weren’t loving actions, but had to be excused on the basis of “God’s holiness means he won’t stand for imperfections.”

    It’s one reason I’m not Christian any more.

  • Anonymous

    I’m very surprised no one has yet referenced this. I believe it applies.

    My favorite metaphor for holiness is cleaning and repairing; making us whole and useful again by mending the broken parts, but also by removing the dirt and rust. Love is what shows us what sort of cleaning is required: does this thing need lye and bleach, applied with a wire brush, or does it need Woolite on the gentle cycle? That’s what St. Paul means in the reference passage. Without love, holiness is only harsh and doesn’t accomplish its needed ends. God wants us to be fit and useful, and His holiness will clean us so that we can perform our needed function. Most of those Biblical references to fires are to refining, melting ore to get the good metal to make tools. The dross is burned away but the gold remains. When the Bible talks about the chaff being cast into the ovens, that happens only after the grain has been removed from each stalk. The chaff has to be removed so that the grain can be made into bread, and the chaff is burned into nothing, the farmer doesn’t hang on to the chaff so he can watch it being burned over and over and over.

    That’s what bothers me so much about the fundies’ version of Hell — it’s so very wasteful. God doesn’t waste.

  • P J Evans

    search for tags like ‘Hell’ and ‘theodicy’, which are listed at the end of the post, just above the comments.

  • lindsay

    This is not an easy concept and it has been many years since I studied it. Holiness, Sanctity etc are inter-related, (hebrew qadash, greek heiron, latin sanctus). The basic meaning refers to a separation. Vessels for use in the Temple were sanctified (made holy) by being set apart specifically for use in the worship of God therefore they were Holy. Whether gold, silver, wood or clay they were equally holy. In a similar vein, God is “set apart” from the world. Whole, complete but apart (cf animism where god is the world)

  • ako

    While I’m 100% sure any psychiatrist worth their salt has already told them this >.> encourage them to try to sleep consistently. I cannot begin to tell you the difference good night’s sleep can make. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but srsly. It’s hard to do sometimes, depression can make sleeping tough; but keeping a good routine can make a difference. At the very least it helps you feel a little more human. >.< Which is generally a good thing.

    One of my friends has serious chronic depression (she’s getting help, which is resulting in some improvement), and she has the thing where when she’s intensely depressed she sleeps all of the time, mostly out of boredom and a desire to blank out for a while. This tends to result in a lot of sleeping through appointments and things and makes it hard for her to function. It’s making it hard for her to sleep as much as she needs when she’s actually tired, because she’s used to associating the urge to sleep with a depressive episode, and has trouble working out when she has a healthy desire for sleep.

  • Rikalous

    Paraphrasing from The Curious Savage: “People say they love you all the time. When they say ‘Take an umbrella, it’s raining’, or ‘Look out, you’ll break your neck’, they’re really saying ‘I love you.’”

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Yeah, I know how that goes

    The key thing with it is as best as possible to try to maintain something resembling a normal sleep/wake pattern. Sooo much easier said than done – it’s a big effort. I think that’s why a lot of people get discouraged when dealing with depression – because it’s an incredible amount of effort to do relatively small things that other people would not comprehend as being an achievement.

    For instance: I get excited when I do the dishes. Sounds ridiculous right? It’s taken me *years* of effort to get to the point where I can do them consistently without letting them become an overloaded stack in the sink that sits for a week.

    Err, but yeah, the point being is, it’s not easy to do.

    That reminds me, another important thing is caffeine consumption and to keep it as low as possible ><; I actually feel bad because I cannot remember the exact explanation why; but I've cut my caffeine levels from half a pot+ of coffee a day down to a couple glasses of extremely weak tea* a day.

    There's really a boatload of 'little' things that can help out, at least for some people. I won't pretend it'll all work for everyone but it’s something to try at least. And again, talking about it is much, much simpler than actually doing it ;

    *It’s 1 teabag in 64oz of water, to give an idea. I rarely let it steep long either – I just toss the bag in the teapot (32oz), heat it for 3 minutes in the microwave, pour, then dilute the rest of the way. I also drink a ton of decaff tea.

  • Dan Audy

    [i]Also different people express love in different ways [/i]

    That was a huge revelation for me when I discovered it. Prior to that I had neglected gift giving at Christmas and birthdays because I felt that obligatory gift giving negated any value the gift had. My mother loaned me a book called ‘The 5 love languages’ (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Languages-Secret-That-Lasts/dp/0802473156/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1302899548&sr=8-1) that really helped me understand that other people give and receive differently than I do. Now I participate in gift giving not because it has value to me but because it is important to the people that I care about.


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