In the podcast episode this week, I engage in a discussion about wonder, fear, and sacrifice. I make a distinction between real love and what I call “logical love” and “sentimental love.” I want to take some time here to explain more about the distinction between these three types of love and whether real love is simply action.
The three types of love I mention in the podcast are the following: (1) real-love, which is action with affectivity for the beloved’s good; (2) sentiment-love, which places love’s fulfillment in feelings rather than the good of the other regardless of how it makes the lover feel; and (3) logical-love, which separates speech and the practical activity required to show that the speech signifies a reality.
Some people might be tempted to reduce love to only practical action, but love must be more than practical action. If love could only be a practical action, then that would mean something like taking a rest for your own sake would be an unloving action towards the beloved. Furthermore, quiet moments spent with the beloved would not be considered loving according to this definition of love since merely sitting with someone is not an action but is rather a lack of action on the part of both parties.
Additionally, love cannot be reduced to practical activity because love is an action of the whole human person. Action, in the sense I am using it, is any sort of real activity, which can be speech, practical action, thought, etc. The loving human person is loving in all ways—from the small ways of bringing you a drink on a hot day to the large ways of surprising you with some large gift.
In addition to going beyond practical activity, love also goes beyond just comforting a person under emotional distress. The lover loves the beloved to that person’s core. The action, broadly speaking, which goes into loving a beloved to the core of that person, involves everything a person can give.
Going beyond only practical activity or only sentiments, real love is action with affectivity for the beloved’s good. A person who loves with real love has affectivity for the beloved’s good and is also ready to act in a way that is for the beloved’s good; this person is willing the good of the other and is therefore loving the other.
A person who says he or she loves another person or wills the good of that person but is not willing to act in accord with that other person’s good is not actually loving the person. Likewise, a person who says he or she is willing to act but doesn’t actually have that affectivity or will toward the good of the other will not actually act when the time comes for action, so this person cannot be loving the other person despite what he or she says.
To truly love, we must engage our whole selves down to the very center of our being, and say as the Psalmist says: “ἡ καρδία μου καὶ ἡ σάρξ μου ἠγαλλιάσαντο ἐπὶ θεὸν ζῶντα (my heart and my flesh are overjoyed upon the Living God!)” The Psalmist shows us that both our heart and flesh, our whole selves, must love like God loves, who loves us with all that He is.