Anytime we think of the word attraction, we automatically think of physical attraction or very initial emotional attraction. This is true, but it is not the be all and end all of attraction, especially in the way that St.JP2 refers to it in “Love and Responsibility.” It is so much deeper than we realize.
First and foremost, he explains that “love is always a mutual relationship between persons. This relationship in turn is based on particular attitudes to the good, adopted by each of them individually and by both jointly” (pg. 73). He then goes further and explains this concept as it applies to a mutual relationship between a man and a woman, and how their attitude towards the good is what originates their attraction to one another. We have usually thought that this attraction to one another is mostly emotion based, but it turns out that it is deeper. It encompasses both emotions and the will. St. JP2 explains this as “not just thinking about some person as a good, but it means a commitment to think of that person as a certain good” (pg. 75).
Now, our beloved saint was quite the deep philosopher, so if you’re scratching your head at this point allow me to simplify. When we feel an initial attraction to someone, we feel it emotionally at first. However, when we refer to true love as attraction it takes it one step further. Once we feel those thoughts of attraction through our emotions, now our will comes in and we commit to those thoughts because we view them as a particular good that we are attracted to, therefore sustaining the attraction.
What is it that attracts us in the first place? As human persons, we have implanted in us from the beginning this desire and attraction to the good, which in turn is ultimately a desire and attraction for God since He is the source of all that is good. Each person, however, is sensitive to different values that they view as being good to them individually and jointly in a relationship with another person. This is why when we look at what truly attracts us in the other it differs in a sense from person to person. It’s not to say that one value is better than another, but it just shows that one person is more sensitive to a particular value and is particularly quick to perceive and respond to it.
Are you still with me? Sometimes I wonder how St.JP2 managed to process all of this and more in his mind! It’s quite amazing! Let me bring it all together.
You meet someone and you become initially attracted to them physically, but also to their outgoing personality and fire for the faith. You are drawn to the gentleness of their voice and particular outlook on life. These are things that you are particularly sensitive too and catch right away. Your attraction is first felt emotionally, but then you see that these values are truly good and have depth in them that can be good to you and to you both together. Through an act of the will you continue this attraction and let it get deeper.
Take a moment today to reflect on what truly attracts you to a man or woman? What are the values or qualities that you are more sensitive too, that you feel reflect what is good? Now also bring it back to yourself…do you reflect those same qualities?
– John, P. (1981). Love and responsibility. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.
NOTE: This is part of a 4 part series on “What is Love?”
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