It’s Hard to Really Love

by Catherine Doherty

Love means an interior and spiritual identification with one’s brother or sister, so that the person is not regarded as an object to which good is done. Doing good in that way is of little or no spiritual value to anyone. In fact, it is a tragedy. It destroys the one who gives, and the one who receives.

Love takes on one’s neighbor as one’s self, and loves the neighbor with all the immense humility and discretion and reserve and reverence without which no one can presume to enter into the sanctuary of another. From such love, all authoritarianism, brutality, all exploitation, domineering, and condescension must necessarily be absent.

The full difficulty and magnitude of the task of loving others should be recognized. Love should take on one’s neighbor as one’s very self and love that person with immense humility and never minimize it. That it is hard to really love others in this way should be recognized, if love is taken in the full sense of the word.

I have often spoken of identification with the poor. It is an identification that only love can achieve, by complete forgetfulness of self and total concern for the other person. It is an identification so deep, so complete, that it becomes part of oneself, like breathing. It is a way of loving.

From Grace in Every Season, 2001, June 2, p. 154, available from MH Publications in a 2012 edition