Throughout this series we’ve gone on a journey with St. JP2 to unpack and understand the three elements of Love: Attraction, Desire and Goodwill, as it pertains to the relationship between a man and woman. All three have this same focus, which is finding the good, and ultimately God since He is the source of all that is good. Recall back to how St. JP2 described the word love in Pt.1, he says “love is always a mutual relationship between persons [man and woman]. This relationship in turn is based on particular attitudes to the good, adopted by each of them individually and by both jointly” (pg. 73). When it comes to understanding true love, it is always centered towards the good of the other but also the good of ourselves individually as persons.
Reflect back on all three elements: Attraction, Desire and Goodwill. After going through them one by one, it’s probably easy to see how it can be a slippery slope of there is one overpowering more than the other two. This is because love encompasses ALL THREE and we need a communion of ALL THREE in order for true love to make sense. If we have an imbalance of these three, love can very easily turn into “use”.
Bringing it all together, this is my interpretation as to how all three elements work in communion together. I want to use this in the analogy of a fireplace to bring a visual perspective to it. Attraction is that initial moment, those values and qualities that we are more sensitive too, and that initial emotional pull and attraction to those values in the other person. Attraction would be that first spark that starts off the fire. Desire is that deep longing and hunger, as we described it, for the other. That desire of being bound to and in relation with the other, and it is also strongly seen in our natural sexual urge. Desire is the wood that keeps the fire burning and fuels it. Goodwill is truly wanting and seeking the good of the other, and the most unconditional and purest form of love, is it the choice that we make. Goodwill is the fireplace itself that houses the flames in the boundaries of its walls.
Notice how we need all three elements in order to keep that fire going strongly. If our focus is Attraction, that fire will die out as quick as it started because there is nothing beyond the initial emotions to keep it fueled. If our focus is Desire, yes that fire is getting fueled but it will eventually set the whole house on fire because there are no walls keeping it from spreading all over, and keeping it from being channeled properly. If our focus is Goodwill, yes we have the boundaries and a proper direction, but we don’t have the actual fire going. Only when all three: attraction, desire and goodwill, are present together does the fire burn strongly and is channeled in the purest and truest way to bring warmth, not harm. Now it is a true fire of LOVE.
Take a moment to look at each element in your own lives and approach to your relationships. Is there one element that maybe overpowers more than the others, or is one missing completely. Strive to love in the fullest and truest way, and pray for the grace of having that balance. Remember, at the end of the day that truest and most perfect love…is God HIMSELF.
“Jesus, I love you. Help me to love you more and show me how to love”
– 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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