Step in the Name of Love

Posted by Melvin Bray on May 13th, 2005 filed in Home-Training

I never had any intentions of making Home-Training a political series. So allow me to make a hard right and touch on a subject that speaks more to the heart than to the mind. Love.

When I watch movies or TV shows or listen to the radio, I am usually dumb-founded and often disgusted by what it seems most of us call love. Anyone on the outside looking in would think we were Neanderthals the way we treat one another in the name of love. It’s pitiful. It’s sad. Nonetheless, we celebrate our emotional depravity in our music and our movies and our other so-called art. It reminds me of something Frederick Douglass wrote about music on the plantation where he was raised:

“The thought that came up, came out—if not in the word, in the sound;—and as frequently in the one as in the other. They would sometimes sing the most pathetic sentiment in the most rapturous tone, and the rapturous sentiment in the most pathetic tone.”

That’s often how I feel when I encounter the mess that we try to pass off as love—whether it be friend to friend, man to woman, church to community or nation to nation. I just want to shake my head. But then I realize that’s no kind of responsible reaction to the degredation and ignorance, arrogance and cynicism, hostility and violence we’ve already begun to pass on as a legacy to our children… in the name of love.

Understanding the interactive, relational, cooperative nature of love, we would do well to be more intentional about how we raise our kids to live love. The Good Book initially refers to the first two lovers as simply man and woman. Maybe such simple designations were used not by chance. Maybe they reveal more about who we were created to be than meets the eye. Maybe they represent an ideal towards which we would do well to strive.

Consider what happens when we raise our children to be other than simply men and women. Many parents want their little ones to be always ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’. They raise them to be oh so proper and oh so mannerly, with a very good sense of their own ‘specialness’. But notice how this can adversely affect their practice of love. They often think that all they have to offer is gold… to be treasured and guarded, easily hoarded or used as currency to secure the desires of their hearts. Quite often, with no malicious intent whatsoever, gentlemen and ladies find themselves sitting back waiting for love to be given to them, not realizing that love is only received by those who involve themselves in it. Their love is a favor to be earned or rationed out in pity. But real love is moved with compassion, not pity. And ‘love’ that must be earned is not love at all: it is a feeble imitation at best. For when anything is done that displeases or disappoints or sorrows or angers, which quite often happens, even more often when one has a sense of entitlement, favor masquerading as love soon vanishes.

Something equally disastrous happens when our little ones grow up to think they are THE MAN or THE WOMAN. They begin to think that their stuff is much too good for anyone to ever deserve. Yet in them is little of the inhibitions of propriety and decorum that characterize gentlemen and ladies. They freely “use what they got”—albeit to the same selfish end—“to get what they want.” THE MAN and THE WOMAN just happen to be a little more honest—or maybe it’s more aware—of their selfishness. What they may by chance call an act of love might be better described as a reward or a return on an investment. Eventually every relationship gets evaluated and re-evaluated through the same cynical prism: “What have you done or what can you do for me?” And when the answer comes back, “Nothing,” dead weight gets cut loose.

In the beginning God created the first two lovers as simply, honestly a self-accepting, self-respecting man and woman. Having just come from the hand of their Creator, they were able to grasp—or maybe unable to overlook—a truth about themselves and their purpose that the gentlemen and the ladies, THE MEN and THE WOMEN of this world just don’t get. They recognized themselves (all that they had and all that they were) as gifts created for each other’s happiness and pleasure. And it seems to me that only in the sunlight of this very simple acceptance of one’s self as no more and no less than just a man or just a woman can love blossom and thrive between two people.

Here’s some home-training for us. If we would raise our children to see themselves as gifts who will only find meaning and significance “making love” with others (please recognize that the context in which I am speaking has nothing to do with sexuality), they may actually have a chance to share the joy that Adam and Eve abandoned when being a gift ceased to be enough for them.

If we’re going to sing about love… let’s sing about that.

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