Nemo est qui non amet.
This Lent, I have tried to locate some of the obstacles to letting love reign in my life. The singular insight I have come to is this: I am the biggest obstacle to love. I am the problem. This may not be a surprise to some of you, but it was to me.
You see, as much as I can posture as humble and self-effacing, the truth is that I—and, perhaps, you too—think of myself in fairly glowing terms. The evil in the world is usually out there among the real, serious problems. Whatever issues I might have are small by comparison.
What I am called to do is to help them, those ones, the obstacles out there. Not in here.
In short, I am extremely self-righteous. Sadly, I came to this conclusion by calling someone else self-righteous. When I turned from my accusation, I was left with a ringing irony in my chest: Am I self-righteous too? Well of course I am, isn’t everybody? But I’m only generically self-righteous. Plus, maybe I have good reason to be. Isn’t the truth on my side when I speak it to the power of other people’s over-inflated, blind ego?
This has saturated my Lenten reflections. I am usually of the mind that love begins by loving myself, getting comfy with my emotions, and not feeling too guilty or repressed—accepting myself for who I am. I grew up with plenty of guilt and repression, so, the task of loving always seems reactionary to that. But this is not wholly true for me. In fact, it might be completely false.
Love, true love, begins with letting myself die, getting over my pride and self-pity—even my self-love. Love begins not with hatred for my self, but with a certain indifference to self that allows me to move beyond the surface and into the deeper waters of love and tragedy.
In those stormy seas, I have found that my primary obstacle to letting love reign in my life is my exceptional ability to cast my failings upon others. To put the burdens of the love-command on the backs of those who might be in most need of love. Without question, they are in most need of love-from-me since I tend to not love them—after all, they are my enemies.
Everytime I see something ugly, I see it as other and alien to me. Everytime I see something beautiful, I see it as an intimate and familiar thing.
If I am honest about things, the deeper sea of the self knows that it really feels exactly the reverse. The surface of my emotions and reactions hide the deeper truth: fear, pity, cowardice, loneliness, and death.
These obstacles are not insurmountable, but to remove them I must begin by getting over myself. Only then can I love and be in love.
If Augustine is right, then, only then can I be. In love.