True Love

There are two conditions of true love which run contrary to the popular perception of love. Love is, in its truest expression, conditional and intolerant. Certainly each of those assertions will require some explanation and qualification so as not to offend the sensibilities of anyone who might read them. But with any luck, even after they are explained, I may yet offend some readers.

Love is conditional. That is not to say that the lover loves conditionally based on some quality in the beloved. Instead, love is conditional in that it must meet conditions of authenticity. It is not love merely because we label it so; it is love because it meets the conditions of love, conforms to the objective criteria of love. Love admits no relativism in its expression, making any sentiment like “I love you, but…” irrelevant. Love permits not coexistence between love and an unloving act, because the condition of love is act. All behavior therefore either expresses love or it does not and thus logically precedes any profession of love. This reverses the traditional conception of conditionality. It is no longer “I love you because…” (which would imply that love exists because of some behavior of the beloved) but becomes “Because I love you…” (which requires the behavior of the lover to verify the existence of the love). Thus love is conditional, with the actions of the lover rather than the loved as the condition.

Love is intolerant. Not only this, but love is belligerently intolerant, because true love admits not fault in the beloved. This is not out of some warped delusion about reality, nor of some fantastic and unrealistic appraisal of the beloved. Instead it is out of unwillingness to accept anything but the best on behalf of the beloved. Certainly it tolerates no affront to the beloved from evil sources, but it also tolerates no belittling of the beloved from the beloved. When the beloved acts against her own interests, the lover responds naturally and rightly with an intolerant hatred. Elie Wiesel has quite rightly said, “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.” If the ultimate lovelessness is apathy than love must be the ultimate pathos, coupling paradoxically in itself the most supernal joys and the most repugnant rages. Both express the underlying reality that love is supremely intolerant. The sentiment that “If you love me, you’ll accept me as I am” expresses the polar opposite of love. It is inimical to love, corrosive to it. G. K. Chesterton reminds that “Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.”

Thus, I suggest that it is not only appropriate but ultimately necessary to understand love as conditional and intolerant. A love which is unconditional and tolerant is a contradiction in terms. The love which does not require anything of the lover (unconditional) or the beloved (tolerant) is no love at all. It is a superlative mutual apathy, the darkest of all possible human relations.

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