“To love at all is to be vulnerable,” writes C.S. Lewis. Being vulnerable means that we are open to being hurt and that our hearts might be pierced.
But if you do not wish your heart to be broken, C.S. Lewis advises that “you must give your heart to no one…avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket…it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
The doors to Hell are locked from the inside, and the key is to open your heart. Do not hide
your talent in a napkin, that is do not hide your heart and the love you have to give out of fear of being hurt, for “perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment…we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:18-19). Charity is the one thing that will remain, the highest virtue, and without love, despite wondrous and mighty acts, we gain nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3).
Meditate this Lent on how you love and the object of that love. Are you open to pouring out your love? Are you open to receiving the love that has been poured out for you?
C.S. Lewis’ Four Types of Love
In his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis defines the four types of love found in human relationships.
This is the love of Affection, which relies upon the expected and familiar aspects of our lives: the smell of grandma’s cooking, the slosh of water against the hull of a boat, your favorite sweater. Affection surrounds us in the little things, gives us a feeling of belonging, and is often present along with the other types of love.
This is the love of Friendship, and is the type of love that C.S. Lewis believes will most likely
resemble the love in Heaven. The spark of friendship is ignited by something in common. Good friendships are priceless for “two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). As St. Therese of Lisieux says, “Since we see the way, let’s run together!”
This is the love of Romance and Passion. It is the love of lovers who through an abundance of love conceive a new love. The lover is absorbed in the face of his beloved. Though while the highly passionate feelings themselves may be fleeting, true romance does not simply pass away. This type of love teaches us how to love our neighbor as ourselves because now the needs and desires of our beloved become as important to us as our own.
This is a true charity and the love that we are all called to self-sacrificial love. To truly love is to will the good of the other, and sometimes that means that we must forgo some good we desire for the greater good of another: like the mother who forgoes sleep to care for her sick child or the friend who puts her own good news of a promotion on the back burner while listening with a caring ear to a friend who is grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one. Mother Teresa advises us to “love until it hurts…if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Dante’s Classification of Vices in Terms of Love
In his Epic Poem, Purgatorio, Dante discusses how love is at the root of all of our deeds, both the deeds that are praiseworthy and the deeds that would lead us to be condemned. If by our free will, we allow our love to veer away from God, goodness Himself, or place goods that should be secondary above Him, our love will incline us to particular vices and sins.
1. Pride—our good depends on others being inferior to ourselves
2. Envy—our good depends on others being worse off than ourselves
3. Anger—our good depends on others being punished for the good that they have harmed
These three vices are Disordered or Misplaced Love. They are a love of suffering in others, and primarily destroy the bonds of community.
4. Sloth—does not pursue or respond to the good Sloth represents a Lack of Love or Deficient Love.
5. Avarice—excessive love of possessions and money
6. Gluttony—excessive love of food and drink
7. Lust—excessive love of sex and relationships
These three vices are Excess Love. They all represent love and the pursuit of that love which is good, but they all fall short in seeking the greatest good, which is God.