I talk a lot about love. I believe it to be the singular most important attribute to both our human life and our spiritual one. Love is the defining essence of God and it has power in its presence (or in its absence) that is unparalleled throughout history. But, sometimes, I find talking about love annoying.
I imagine some of that annoyance has to do with current tendency to reduce love to a silly sentimental (and overly romantic) fleeting emotion. Or perhaps, it has to do with the fact that the English language limits all the varying concepts and depth of love to a single word. Is it an action, noun, or adjective? Exactly what do you think of when you think of the word love? Most likely it is this lack of universal understanding of love that I find the most frustrating of all.
I am not wanting to arrogantly suggest that somehow I have developed a true understanding of love that no one else has yet to achieve. Love will look varied because it IS varied. I can state that I love coffee and I can state that I love my husband. Both are true, yet, they do not mean the same thing. Likewise, I can say “I love you” to my child, but what I am saying may mean something slightly different each time it is spoken. And I have not even begun to discuss that love is more than a declaration. It is more than something we feel, and it is more than the motivation for an action- it can even be the very action itself. The truth is love IS many different things, it can not be contained in some small definition. (Perhaps that is why I find talking about love can be annoying.)
Yet despite loves inability to be contained in definition, there is something I feel strongly needs to be stated when it comes to love, and it is that love is not appeasement.
Appease, acquiesce, concede, accommodate, pacify, placate, allay- whatever term you want to use, they are synonymous, and they do not describe love. Appeasement is the idea that you can act in such a way to make someone else happy- but specifically happy with you. It is different from empathy or consideration- which can be traits of love. Appeasement is not thinking of someone else’s feelings or putting yourself in someone else shoes. It is assessing someone’s expectation and then meeting that expectation in such a way to see a positive return.
This is not love. Appeasement might be kind (sometimes), it might even be nice and polite. And admittedly appeasement can be highly effective in being well liked, but it is not the same as love.
There are several reasons why I have a problem with treating appeasement as a form of love, but my main argument is that it is selfish. Although not overtly false like other forms of manipulation, appeasement works towards the goal of receiving something in return. There are always strings attached. It may not be as blatant as expectation of reciprocal treatment (I did you a favour now you owe me a favor) but it does still come with strings (I gave you this gift or said this nice thing, you should feel grateful and have positive feeling towards me now).
Unfortunately, appeasement is often praised as love, and is often taught as an acceptable expression of love. When that happens, love is weakened and reduced to something feeble, and that in my opinion is nothing short of a travesty.
Sometimes love is kind, and pretty, and makes people happy, and is equally reciprocated. But (and I would suggest most of the time) love is gritty, and difficult, and scary, and imbalanced. Love can not be handcuffed to niceties and pleasantness. There is a time and place for a love that is intense and perhaps even a little dangerous. There is a time and place for a love that is not about happy, but about good, and unfortunately those are not always the same thing. There is a time and place for anonymous love, without the threat of restitution. The depth and power of love needs to free to be ugly- even as ugly as death- or it loses its power to bring life.
Meet the Pasotr
Pastor Heather and her family have been a part of the Cold Lake Community since December 2006 and she has been the pastor at Community Baptist Church since September 2017.