Yesterday I spoke of the conflict I feel when I observe a woman married to a man who appears to be treating her disrespectfully while she appears to continue to just sit there and take it. Notice that I use the word “appears” twice – because how the heck do I really know what they’ve got going on? Who am I to judge? I make the point because there are some folks among us who have to figure out how to deal with loved ones who are abusive and disrespectful over the holidays. I thought that Thomas Merton handles dilemma beautifully in his book No Man Is An Island.
To love another is to will what is really good for him. Such love must be based on truth. A love that sees no distinction between good and evil, but loves blindly merely for the sake of loving, is hatred, rather than love. To love blindly is to love selfishly, because the goal of such love is not the real advantage of the beloved but only the exercise of love in our own souls. Such love cannot seem to be love unless it pretends to seek the good of the one loved. But since it actually cares nothing for the truth, and never considers that it may go astray, it proves itself to be selfish. It does not seek the true advantage of the beloved or even our own. It is not interested in the truth, but only in itself. It proclaims itself content with an apparent good: which is the exercise of love for its own sake, without any consideration of the good or bad effects of loving….Charity is neither weak nor blind. It is essentially prudent, just, temperate, and strong. Unless all the other virtues blend together in charity, our love is not genuine. No one who really wants to love another will consent to love him falsely. If we are going to love others at all, we must make up our minds to love them well. Otherwise our love is a delusion. It is clear, then, that to love others well we must first love the truth. (pp.5-6)
So here’s the deal. It is NOT loving to have absolutely NO expectations of other people who are in a love relationship with us; that kind of love is NOT really good for them. It is not loving to notice that someone has a bugger sticking out their nose and ignore it – if you are in a love relationship. The holidays may not be a good time to talk buggers. Perhaps after this round of holidays and before the next season of cheer, there are some respectful, dignified, kind and loving come-to-Jesus conversations we can have with people we have love relationships with about their buggers.