Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

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Love is the third emotion explored by Robert C. Solomon and his described as the most favorite of our positive emotions.   But again, Solomon is going to understand love as not thing that happens to us but an engagement with the world and a series of choices.  He notes that love is not only the discovery that another person is loveable but it is the bestowal of virtues that “make a person valuable to us” (27).  Surely there are situations that are beyond our control in partnership.  Given that caveat, it is equally true that when love endures it is because we have made the choice to move forward with an imperfect and at times even crazy partner.

Solomon notes that fairy tales ending is really the beginning of love.  For it is after the hero and the heroine are joined and riding off into the sunset that the real work begins.  And by real work, I mean real choices.  Solomon’s lecture implies that love has more to do with the lover than the lovee.  Additionally, our ability to engage critical thinking about our choices and our willingness to learn and adapt (when the situation is not an abusive one) may be the strongest patterns of behavior in long-standing relationships.

The irony is that within a loving relationship there will surely be times when we don’t feel in love at all.  Indeed, other emotions arise like fear , anger, shame etc.  Those, seemingly antithetical emotions challenge and critique love.  If we hold them in tension with love, they provide a path….even if it is  sometimes a narrow path, forward.  An active love is dependent upon the regular challenge of antithetical emotions that, like a good workout in the gym, strengthens our choice to continue the task of loving.  Then, with serendipity, we receive warm and wonderful moments of reward that even if they are brief run deep like a spring fed well and we can return to them to be nourished.

Process theology asserts that Our Creator imagines many wonderful possibilities for each of us.  But as we live imperfectly and narrow our possibilities and potential, God moves courageously forward with us….choosing to love us.  As faithful creatures, outside of abusive relationships, this might be behavior we would want to discipline ourselves toward.


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Anger is a basic emotion.  That is, anger is hard-wired and thus evident in our physiology when we are experiencing them and they are evident within the human community as well as other creatures and their communities.   But anger is more than just a basic emotion.  It is also not an emotion that simply happens to us.  According to Robert C. Solomon, anger is a particular emotion.  And each emotion is a method of interacting with the world.  Drawing on Jean-Paul Sartre, Solomon notes that emotions are a strategy for our engagement with the world.  Anger and Fear are both part of the strategy by which you and I respond to the world.


Much of Western civilization has been built on the philosophy of the ancient Greeks who believed that freedom from emotion was the way to a better life.  They call this apatheia or apathy.  The residual effect of  Greek philosophy is that we imagine emotions as something that happen to us. When anger happens to us, can we help but express road rage, gossip, physical or verbal assault?  We might be able to  experience anger differently if we understand it differently.

There are those who believe that anger helps us  get what we want.   In other words we change ourselves through anger.  We may experience humiliation that someone will not help us with a difficult project.  It is anger that elevates us to a position of judgment against the one who will not help us and anger helps us to save face.

Anger is not always appropriate, but it is a feeling that brings a message:  “Hey, you have been humiliated or frustrated.  What are you going to do about it?”  If we understand that anger helps us to save face then we are more likely to use it responsibly (with the right person, over the right issue at the right time) or correct it with compassion and forgiveness, learning from the initial experiences of shame and humiliation.   Anger is not easily dismissed because our interactions with the world can be hurtful and we are in need of healing.  Anger is a strategy, but each of us have to decide if it is the best strategy!

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I was talking with someone the other day who declared that they felt caged by their rage and resentment.  They expressed a desire to be able to forgive.

Forgiveness is a difficult subject for any of us.  We are challenged to forgive institutions, individuals, ourselves, maybe even God.  Forgiveness can be confused with forgetting.  Most of us feel like forgiving is not our strongest suit.  The reason maybe that forgiveness has often been characterized as something that we do for other people.  This traditional characterization may be where we are hung up.

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki (a bird lover by the way) has a more compelling and even persuasive understanding of forgiveness.  This is fully explained in her book The Fall to Violence:  Original Sin in Relational Theology.      In the work she details three dimensions of forgiveness and two misconceptions:

  • Three dimensions of forgiveness
    • the action of willing well-being
    • the relationship between victim and violator
    • and the courage of knowledge and remembrance
  • Two misconceptions of forgiveness
    • that forgiveness entails feelings of love
    • that forgiveness entails an acceptance of the other person

Suchocki asserts that violence in its lesser and greater forms will demand that the person of faith engage forgiveness.  The lesser forms of violence might be cutting remarks, gossip, or lack of follow through. The greater forms of violence include loss of live or vitality.  Whatever the case, violence, Suchocki says, “…does not end with the completion of its occurrence;  it insinuates itself into the ongoing experience of the victim.  Violation amounts to the robbery of future time by forcing what should be new experiences to conform to the contours of the old.  A person is robbed at gunpoint;  the robbery happens in an instant.  But does it?  Does not the person live and relive the experience of the robbery, repeating the fear and anger in every unguarded moment? ” (147)

Initially the violator is responsible for the violence but who keeps the violence perpetuated?  That is within the mind of the victim.  This does not blame the victim but it does describe the process and trajectory of violence at whatever level. As the victim internalizes the violence, the violator and the victim become one in the same.

Forgiveness invites the victim to come a strength of mind and a freedom to take flight into life.  Forgetting is not an option for those who have experienced violence.  It is, indeed, remembering in a specific way that is an option.  Allowing our experiences of violence to give us a contextualized knowledge is the first step to strength of mind.  For example, someone gossips about us and we find out.  We are hurt. We feel the violent effect and our mind begins to cycle around the infraction against us. In order to stop the cycling we might say something like this….”Ahh.  I have learned something important about my friend.  I will know better how to interact with this person in the future.”  A discovery allows us to have specific knowledge.  This prevents an anxious generalization which might sound like, “You can’t trust anyone anymore!”

The real reason to forgive is so that our mind, heart and self are genuinely open to the new experiences of life which are coming to us all the time.   If our mind is distracted and cycling on previous experiences of violence, we are already missing new life and opportunity.  The real reason to FORGIVE is so that we can really LIVE.

Marjorie also ties forgiveness into sin and transformation in her book’s conclusion…a most interesting read!  A personal note about Suchocki is that I have heard that she allows the birds she cares for to fly free within her home.  A practice that might be symbolic of her argument that we should not cage our life experiences for that is where the greatest violence can happen.

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