Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
I Corinthians 13:4-8
How many times have I heard this in a wedding ceremony? How many times have I said Paul is really not my favorite apostle. And yet, these are true important words representing true important ideas, not just for romantic couples but for friends and families as well.
I have been thinking about the nature of love. Love. Not obsession. Not approval. Not affection. True, unconditional love.
I love my children, my husband, my extended family, and my friends in a way that will never end, no matter what they do. (Don't take that as a challenge, please. I'm being a little rhetorical here.) I may not be happy with some choices, but I love the people. I respect them and their right to make their choices even if they are different than mine. I probably wouldn't like them so much if they didn't make their own choices. But I would still love them.
I thought so. But recently I have been shocked to find that some people don't love that way. When someone does something they don't like, they withdraw love. I shake my head and furrow my brow. How can they do that? Was it really love? Don't you have to love your children, your siblings?
I'm not talking about tough love. Your child is on crack and refuses to seek help and you stop giving him cash and letting him steal your silver to sell for more crack. That is great. I'm all for that, but even then you still love your child and you do something excruciatingly hard on yourself --- allow him to suffer, even go to jail --- because you love him too much to help him kill himself.
I'm talking about your child doing something different from what you hoped he would do --- going to art school or not getting married --- and you saying, you won't do what I say so I don't love you any more. I wash my hands of you. Who does that?
Yesterday, my husband received an e-mail from his sister stating that she couldn't say anything nice about his family and would withdraw from contact. She said she hadn't commented before (untrue) because she knew we wouldn't listen (true).
And she is right, of course. Her advice was neither solicited nor welcome. One of the things of which she disapproves is a beautiful boy named Gabe who was born less than two weeks ago, "out of wedlock" as they used to say. How could we possibly entertain that notion? What would we do to try to please her?
Gabe is the latest in a long line of sins my sons and I have committed against her supposedly libertarian sensibilities. I knew she didn't approve of us, but I didn't realize it was such a strain for her to keep her opinions to herself. I rarely tell people what I think of them, even if they ask. I don't find it to be a strain at all.
I think I have said too much. I feel a dam bulging with all of the irritations and petty grievences (she gave my son his first haircut without asking because she thought it was too long and didn't even save me a curl), and I don't think I should let it out. I am civilized, remember.
And when she says "I don't have any influence on your children at all," I smile in the same vague way I do when someone offers to sell me insurance. "No, should you?"