Synopsis: Here we raise into awareness love’s amazing power for enduring life’s difficulties and destroyers; along with some myths about love’s inadequacy and pathology; a fuller meaning of “bearing”; love relating while bearing all things; possibly wrong and “psycho sick” interpretations and ending with thoughts for developing your own endurance-providing love strength.
Love’s Power for EnduringIndications of the great and often incredible power of love are able to be perceived as one explores this, the 12th of Paul’s tenants on love. Think about it. To be able to bear all things requires monumental strength for empowering stupendous endurance. Does love really do this? Countless examples of exactly that are to be found in the history of what people have done with love power. Risking their own lives, many have saved their loved one’s lives in deadly situations. Others have ceaselessly searched for and finally discovered their long-lost beloved ones. Still others have worked for decade upon decade to discover a cure for the disease-afflicted for whom they care deeply. Millions of others have continued endlessly, supporting and fighting side-by-side for their loved ones who faced overwhelming trials and tribulations. All these exemplify and offer proof of the endurance power real love gives.
In my own long career as a therapist, I have seen the brave, steadfast power of love empower people to endure seemingly impossible pain, ongoing horrendous stressors, lengthy threatening situations and lifelong heartbreaking occurrences. Often, but not always, love brought a prevailing ability to survive and often eventually become victorious over monstrous problems. Without the strength of authentic love, I am quite sure such outcomes would not have been achievable and those involved probably would not have survived.
The Myths That Love Is Weak, Ephemeral Or Bad for YouThere are those that have proclaimed love to be a fuzzy, fickle falsehood that makes people weak and powerless. Some have held that love is an insubstantial, puny, whimsical thing of no lasting consequence. Still others posit that those involved in love are being entrapped by a seriously de-powering and very detrimental and destructive addiction.
I like to contrast those ideas with the health, psychosocial and animal comparative researchers who have discovered love behaviors to be crucial and powerful for higher life form’s survival and advancement. Then there are the brain scientists who are discovering more and more about the brain regions and chemistry for processing love and finding them to be very real and very powerful. Add to that, the relational scientists who have found the most lasting and healthiest relationships are the ones saturated with the actions that convey love. Lastly, we also can point to the biblical teaching about love’s power, that no one has greater empowering love than those that lay down their lives for another. Every day all over the world there are people who, out of love, are risking or sacrificing their own lives for the well-being of others. Sometimes this is done in a crisis and sometimes in the slow enduring way.
My suspicion is that the nay-sayers of love have not been looking at healthy, real love but rather at various forms of unhealthy, false love (see the “False Forms of Love” series).
The preponderance of evidence points to authentic and well grown love being of enormous power enabling people to survive and thrive, frequently even as they bear all things hurtful and harmful. Countless love-active parents, comrades, love mates, siblings and strong deep friends have done courageous and long-lasting acts because of their love. This gives ever mounting evidence to the conclusion that strong, healthy, real love can indeed Bear All Things.
The Fuller Meaning of “Bear” for Your LifeThink about what may be covered by the word Bear. To bear means to hold up under pressure, endure that which is painful, trying, difficult, hard and/or difficult. Also to bear is to have the power to withstand while going without adequate support or sustenance. It can mean not to flinch, break, retreat, surrender, compromise or be crushed.
To Bear also means to carry forward, take on, take to, and deliver unto. Sometimes to bear can indicate to resist, buck, abide, tolerate, and/or to allow.
Love, healthy real and well-developed love, is seen here as making all the above not only possible but likely when severe and long-lasting difficulties bear down upon you and you remain love-centered (see “Love Centering Yourself”).
Love Relating While Bearing All ThingsOne of the most important features of love is that it keeps love relationships going as they face hard times. I saw this most clearly in my work with the parents and families of murdered children striving not to be driven apart and dragged down by this horrendous experience. I also frequently saw the power of love in helping people endure and co-recover from the anguish of infidelity, the destructive effects of addictions, the miseries of various forms of mental illness and a great deal more. With enough love and well developed love-relating, all these can be endured and, more often than not, overcome. This especially is true when receiving some love knowledgeable, caring, professional help. By the way, you also can apply these concepts to your own self-love relationship.
Interpretation QuandariesIt is always possible we are using a wrong interpretation. I see that as a good reason to look at a wide variety of translation possibilities as we explore what Paul, in the New Testament, put forth about love. However, remember finding the one true, right, perfect, translation of anything seems to be beyond human capability. For constructive cognition, being open to differing ideas of new and ever widening understandings seems to work better. It also is psychologically more healthful. As a rule, trying for perfection often tends to block and/or slow progress and can prevent improvement.
In regard to this 12th precept of Paul’s, I explored over 30 translation efforts. The most numerous of Paul’s Greek “panta stegie” was “love bears or beareeth all things”. This interpretation occurred 14 times. The intriguing variety of other translations included love “never gives up”, “puts up with all things”, “never stops being patient”, “patiently accepts all things”, “puts up with anything”, “always protects” and “she (I like the inclusion of a feminine factor) knows when to be silent” - see my caveat below.
The most different translation I found being considered by some scholars reads something like “love covers the unpleasant in others with quiet” and “love cloaks over what is displeasing in others”. To this mental health professional, both of those interpretations sound rather pathological and the one about a “she staying silent” quite dubious.
Hebrew issues exist concerning the type or kind of love meant by Paul. It is suspected that when Paul taught in Hebrew he probably used the form of the word love called Ahava which has to do with very actively giving caring love. That conveys a meaning somewhat different than using some of the other love words available. Some of these other love word possibilities suggest Paul could have meant a more maternal type love, or a more brotherly type love, or altruistic love or even chaotic love. Paul also may have taught in Aramaic that has its own words for love which may possess additional connotations and shades of meaning.
It is interesting that the Hebrew word Ahava sometimes has been interpreted as being similar in meaning to the Greek Agape love and Metta love in Sanskrit. All these interpretation factors and issues can be used to inform and broaden our understanding of what might be included in the meaning of this 12th tenant of Paul’s.
“Psycho-Sick” InterpretationsMental health professionals working in the environs of Christendom tend to get rather familiar with psychologically toxic understandings of the Bible. Here we seem to have a passage that unfortunately lends itself to such psychopathological possibilities. “Bears all things” has been used to justify needless and useless self-sacrifice, self-flagellation and other forms of self-inflicted bodily harm, destructive self-denial and syndromes in which people experience profound guilt over having not suffered enough. Other interpretations such as “love puts up with all things” have been used as justification for accepting abuse. It also can be a prescription for unknowingly rewarding and encouraging seriously abusive and destructive behaviors.
These sorts of interpretations can be seen as teaching people to become docile victims. They also can be seen as manipulative justifications for sociopaths and psychopaths who use Bible quotes, like “love patiently accepts all things”, for their own ends and against the well-being of others.
Accepting a strict interpretation of “bears all things” as a Christian duty has helped put no small number of wives into hospitals and/or early graves, not to mention men into jail for wife beating and murder. It also has been ruinous for children growing up in homes where toxic religiosity, rather than religion, is manipulatively and abusively practiced.
The “she knows when to be silent”, along with the “covers”, “cloaks” or “ throws a cloak of silence” New Testament descriptions, seem perversely useful for curbing free speech, suppressing individuality, encouraging authoritarian relationships and getting away with the criminal use and misuse of the naïve, gullible, trusting and less self assertive of those among us.
It seems to me, though I am of course heavily biased, that most all scriptural passages might do well to have a psychological health commentary available or accompanying them. Ah, if it were only so.
Developing Your Endurance Love StrengthTo grow your love, healthy real love that is, is to grow your courage, your power for positive impact and your cooperation skills; it also means you are likely to grow your love bonds with others and your ability to bear all things. Also involved here is growing your self love, your other love, your spiritual love and probably your love of life.
What do you do to grow your enduring love strength? You exercise it! First you do what you are doing now which is to study love and love relating. As you continue to do that, find yourself opportunities for doing love action that are not so easy to do. Maybe you volunteer to work with the disadvantaged or get really involved in a political action group working with or for a cause needed and helpful for the less able. Maybe you practice giving love via volunteering at a handicapped children’s camp, Red Cross, Good Will stores, library literacy programs, etc. Then maybe someday you can go on to children’s cancer wards, hospice, campaigns for assistance to the abused elderly or anything you think might be difficult for you. Yes, your heart may be wrenched in the process but it also may be amazingly enriched and strengthened.
You also can learn and think more about love itself and, as you do so, you can practice giving your love as well as working to receive love and soak it up as much as possible. In times of trouble, you can get and give caring compassionate love and in times of goodness, you can do joy and happy love as much as you can and in ordinary times, you can give out a countenance of lovingness everyday. At least, that is how I see it today. Now, what do you think?
I hope you will not have a great deal to Bear in your future but, if you do, perhaps what you have just read will help some. It also might help some others you know or encounter. So, you could tell them about what you have just read and that might help them too. If you do, please talk a little about this mini-love-lesson and this site.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Quotable Question: Is love better seen as something you fall into, or something that falls on you, or as something you give?