Sunday, February 15, 2009

Being nice, and other barriers to love, by Alan Jones

This is a brilliant piece of writing!


By Alan Jones

One of the most damaging things about the popular view of love is that it requires being nice all the time. I don’t think that I am a particularly nice person. In fact, one of the reasons that I count myself among the believers is that I cannot rely on my being nice to pull me through.

Being nice is closely allied, of course, to being liked. The two go together. If I’m not nice you won’t like me, and if you don’t like me then there is no chance of love springing up between us. This kind of reasoning breeds dishonesty because it means that “love” becomes a code word for avoiding confrontation or disagreement.

True love requires a strict and accurate regard for truth. We lie in an age that would prefer the smooth lie to the hard truth. The result is that we are very poor at honoring genuine feelings and hard-won convictions. In the name of caring for each other we often do everything we can to diffuse one another’s passion. We are embarrassed by strong expressions of emotion.

Love, therefore, can easily become a device for avoiding unpleasantness and denying tragedy. In the name of love we tend to deny pity, joy, grief and passion and all for the sake of an egocentric “peace.” [There are] dire consequences in ordinary human life when these great Invisible Things are denied. Love is reduced to niceness and the passion and the grief are driven underground….

It is in such incidents when pity, joy, grief and passion are denied that the soul is aborted. Our neuroses are God-given signals to us of these denials. Life will not be denied. If we cannot or will not live it out creatively then life erupts in a fit of meanness or uncharacteristic behavior. We hear someone say, “I don’t know what came over me.” What “comes over us” is those parts of us that are denied and unlived. They need air. Without it they smell, and the odor of those repressed and unlived parts of us eventually finds its way to the surface….

Love is a kind of pain for which we are starved. The pain comes when all that we have tried to deny will be denied no longer. The soul suffocates when it is walled up. No wonder it resorts to violence when the pressure gets too much. Love, the wild card, comes to such a soul by first puncturing the hardened shell in which it has encased itself. Love, therefore, often comes as a terror—a threat to the self-protecting carapace under which we shelter. The task of love is to help us rid ourselves of the exoskeleton, to lay us bare, to set us free. But we love the prison-house. The place of bondage is, at least, familiar. Love, then, comes as an unwelcome shock. The very thing we think we want, we dread.

The Rev. Alan Jones is a priest and writer and was the dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for 24 years. (He preached his final sermon there on January 25.) This piece is taken from his book, Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality.

Hat tip to Inward/Outward Blog

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