A worthy act ... giving love

A worthy act ... giving love

“Struggle, service, courage and sacrifice,” are the values of Easter according to the spiritual leader of Australia’s 3.5 million Anglicans, Phillip Aspinall.

These are wise words. As such, their relevance is broad. Just as they apply to believers, they apply to congregants of a broader human church. Anyone who’s in a relationship should heed these ideas.

But it’s far easier to be lazy selfish, and cowardly and to take rather than give. It’s easier to be a sinner than a saint. Hence, unhappy hearts, unsatisfied bodies and unfulfilled promises profligate.

Why? Why is it so hard to be good and so straightforward? Can we blame the age we live in? The company we keep? Can we peg the fault on our biology; does science offer any answers?

According to behavioural scientists, because we evolved with a focus on immediate returns, “any behaviour that is not instantly rewarding is aversive.” This goes some way towards explaining why your spouse might prefer playing video games to having a long discussion about how you feel, even if that wasn’t how they were in the youth of your love.

Back then, it was clear; a little talking and listening now will result in intimacy and closeness shortly after. One togetherness is "assured" – i.e. you’re hitched, or you’ve been together forever, you’ve bought a house together, etc – it’s easy to become complacent. You’ve already arrived at planet perfect - goes the thinking - so there’s no need to try anymore.

Except we know there is. Sometimes it is a struggle. But struggles make you stronger. Whether you’re struggling to overcome a gnawing self-doubt, eating away at your willingness to keep approaching people who might just be the love of your life, or struggling to balance the demands of children, work and that thing you used to call romance.

Of course, conquerors need courage. Though courage may seem to come more readily to some, courage may be grasped by anyone who wants it, badly enough. Clinical research has demonstrated that “all people are capable of courageous acts in certain circumstances, even the most fearful of all of us”.

Yet courage isn’t a quality we revere quite as obviously as perhaps we once did. The people who dominated our folk lore in days long gone were notorious villains or heroic champions of the people. Our popular stage is a far more crowded space now. The people we see up there aren’t all exemplars of humanities star qualities.

So how do we ‘do’ courage today? How can we be courageous in our love lives? Rather, how can we be courageous without the boozy Dutch crutch?

Frankly, there’s little else in life that takes as much courage as love itself. True love is a great and terrible thing. It requires the prostration of one’s naked self at someone else’s feet – a terrifying prospect, literally or metaphorically speaking.

Love is splendid but love is scary. You must trust someone completely before you can love them. And you must first trust yourself. That is an act that calls for great courage – often we are most afraid of the things woven within the very fibre of our being.

Love also requires a great giving. There is a giving of self; a giving of time, of emotional energy, mental focus, money, feeling, and more. This is where the quality of service comes in. The action of helping or doing work for someone, service may be born of kindness or duty or any other noble thing. This is the kind of service we should incorporate into our relationships, especially the ones we share with those who are most dear to us.

This is a service untarnished by the expectation of reciprocity, or that glory shall be shovelled on the giver and their name remembered forevermore. To wit, you don’t serve the greatest love of your life by taking out the garbage once because it’s ‘your’ job. You serve them by doing it anyway because you can, and because it’s kind, and because their life may be easier for it.

Though it’s true; good deeds deserve thanks. It is important to give genuine thanks for the people you love in your life. They may be gone at any minute; a fact that’s easy to forget. Hence we should make the effort to appreciate the things they do for us and what we share with them, as regularly as we may get frustrated by them, or angry about things they do. Here we find the value of sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of one’s ego that makes true thanks possible.

At least, that’s what I think anyway.

How about you? This Easter, as you digest buns and eggs and fine wine (as I intend to), why not also masticate over the values we talked about here. “Struggle, service, courage and sacrifice” – are they really core features of a successful relationship? Do you display these qualities? Does our modern world? Why, why not?

kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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