The word “use” is not one that we consciously acknowledge or admit to often, but it is something that we do more than we realize. We will dress it up, cover it up, convince ourselves that we are not using or being used, but in reality that is exactly what is happening.
What does the “to use” truthfully mean? St. John Paul 2, in his book “Love and Responsibility”, gives us two meanings of the word use. The first he describes as “employing some object of action as a means to an end” (pg. 25). This means that we have some sort of an end that we wish to reach, and we use something in order to help us reach that end. When we look at this definition, it seems rather objective. If we want to put a nail into a board, we will use a hammer in order to achieve that. What we use to achieve our end, is always an object. The problem becomes when we use selfishly, for example when we take advantage of using our natural resources, or when the object we use becomes another person. This can be something as simple as taking advantage of another person’s skills or character trait, and treating them as something that is easily disposed. The Latin root of the word use is “consumere”, which we all know as consume or to be a consumer. When we approach people with a consumer attitude and mentality, that is where we turn into using them as objects rather than treating them as persons.
This leads into his second and more subjective meaning. He explains that, “ ‘to use’ (= enjoy) means to experience pleasure, the pleasure which in slightly difference senses is associated both with the activity itself and with the object of the activity” (pg. 32). When it comes to the sexual relationship between a man and a woman, there is a morality aspect attached to it because as human beings we know the purpose of sexual life, but we also know that there are persons themselves involved in this relationship. Using another person only for the sake of some sort of fulfilment and pleasure turns them into a means to an end, which connects to the first meaning stated above. Sometimes this can be covered up so well that we convince ourselves that it is not really “use” that is happening, but if we look deep, we know when we are being used or when we are using someone.
A person should never be brought down to the level of becoming a means to an end, and we should never let ourselves becomes that for others. The only way to combat this, is with love. St. John Paul 2 refers to this as the personalistic norm: the only appropriate way to treat another person, is with love (pg. 41). Love will never allow for use because it is only through love that both people aim for the good of the other.
Make a commitment today: I will not use you, and I will not let you use me.
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.