Note: this is the 15th in our series “What Is Love: a New Testament Reply based on Paul’s description of love and informed by the relational and behavioral sciences”.
Synopsis: The amazing, enduring nature of real love along with its big difference from false love; the many and diverse ways of enduring love; the intriguing things Paul may have meant, with a special emphasis on those who endure; the many attacks on love done differently.
Millions of Endurance MiraclesSide-by-side he was with her and she with him as they got past the disfiguring accident, then through the years of serious surgeries and rehab, the loss of a child, a medical insurance-caused bankruptcy and the rejection that came from both their families when they changed religions. They endured it all together and a lot more. Why? How? The answer is real love can empower us to miraculously “endure all things”. Are they happy today? Yes, immensely!
Did they sometimes think about splitting up and looking for an easier way to go? Yes, of course, lots of times. Did they tire of supporting each other and caring for one another when one was down and the other the caretaker? Yes certainly, especially when things seemed hopeless. Were they tempted to seek care-free other love. Yes, in fact when things seemed at their worst both sought and found comfort and support in the arms of others and then they endured recovering from that also. I am pleased to say I had a little to do with that part. For me, the best part was when I was invited to attend their 40th wedding anniversary celebration years after the agonies they had endured were over.
Here is the real miracle. Though it has some unusual features, their story is not as uncommon or as rare as you might at first think. Thousands upon thousands of examples exist showing people, with love’s empowerment, enduring horrendous difficulties of all kinds. Back to the very dawn of written history, there are examples of love relationships enduring hardships, catastrophes, losses, crippling diseases and every sort of tragedy. Time and again, comrades have risked death to save their deeply loved brothers in service, countless parents have toiled for years to give their loved offspring a better life than their own. Lovers have dashed into harms way to save their heartmates, lifelong friends have stayed side-by-side facing nearly endless trials and tribulations. On and on go the stories of love empowered enduring all things (see our book Recovering Love).
False Love Endures LittleWhen she was hospitalized for three days, her lover did not visit although he did call each day. Everyone else who loved her did visit. He said it was because his amateur sports team had practice during visiting hours, and besides, hospitals made him nervous. He later complained that he could not understand why she broke up with him over this and that it was most unreasonable and unfair. After all, she was in safe hands and well cared for. Months after the breakup she learned he had spent the second night she was in the hospital with another woman. She said, “I’m so glad, relieved in fact, that he proved his love was fake before I found out about his cheating on me. That would’ve hurt but now it’s just validation. I know I’m worth a lot more than his stupid sports club”.
One of the best differentiating signs of real versus false love has to do with the answer to the 3D question. “Will someone professing love willingly endure ongoing, discomfort, difficulty and danger for the well-being of the loved? (See “Why You Need To Know More About Real Love” and our book Real Love False Love.) Remember: real love causes us to want for and, if possible, act for the well-being of the loved (see “The Definition of Love” and “A Dozen Things Love is and A Dozen Things Love is Not”).
False forms of love tend to be about the paramount desires of the self, not about the loved. They may be well masked and hard to detect but they tend to surface in time. Good, healthy love of another does not preclude actions of good, healthy self-love. It just is that love of another is equal or stronger and shows up especially when a loved one faces ongoing discomfort, difficulties and dangers. Real love often, but not always, can be genuinely happy to be of service and assistance when facing difficulties. Acts that come from duty, obligation, guilt, etc. – not so much (see Real Love False Love).
There are some forms of false love that seem to show signs of love’s enduring quality. One of these is the form called Fatal Attraction Syndrome. Its enduring actions come not from love but from an obsessive and compulsive mental health problem. In its moderately serious form, it results in annoying, continuous harassment and stalking behavior. In its most serious form – death by murder and/or suicide can result (see “Fatal Attraction Syndrome”).
Paranoid syndromes may also seem to have enduring signs of love in a seemingly protective way. The protectiveness usually is a mask for possessiveness and insecurity. This is birthed from fear not love. Addiction syndromes can manifest pseudo-love endurance behaviors so long as the supposed loved one continues to be a facilitator of the addiction.
What Does It Mean to EndureLove empowers us to keep going in adversity, continue in spite of difficulty, remain, last, tolerate, withstand and, when needed, to suffer patiently. It also can mean to bravely resist, courageously carry on, stoically live through and with resignation weather the storm. It is love’s enduring quality that gives, assists and defends love’s longevity. Enduring love means not only do we come to the aid of our loved ones but we stay there, not withdrawing or retreating in the face of adversity or adversaries.
Is This What Paul Meant?At first glance, it can seem like this precept in Paul’s discourse on love is just another way to say love bears all things (see “Love Bears All Things”). There are, however, some important differences. I am told those may be easier to understand in the ancient biblical Greek than in English. Love endures all things in the ancient biblical Greek is “agape panta hupomenei”. Remember, just like in English, Greek words can have more than one meaning.
Some scholars suspect that in Paul’s day it perhaps was understood that these words emphasized not fleeing or removing oneself from the fray, abandoning the field of conflict, or to stand one’s ground under attack. The word agape is thought to carry with it the connotation of compassionate love and continuously active love in the needed service of the loved. Interestingly, some think Paul’s teaching also implies willingly enduring or putting up with awkward circumstances caused by unloving fellow church members, or something like that. Love endures all things is further thought to especially imply to endure persecution, afflictions and troubles caused by those acting against the Christian movement.
Of the 30 biblical translations reviewed, 17 translated Paul’s words as “love endures all things” which is the most common interpretation. It is, therefore, the one we use here.
Other interpretations, both in Bibles and suggested for possible future consideration, include “love endures”, “ love is always no matter what”, ”love endures through every circumstance”, “love - she is full of patient endurance”, “love never gives up”, “love always remains strong”, “love always perseveres”, “love never looks back”, “love needs never retreat”, “love will never remove itself from adversity”, “love does not flee from its opposition”, “love makes us stand our ground”, “love prevails over the unloving”, “love will endure the persecution and afflictions of all who move against it”, “love gives us endurance over all troubles”, “love has the power to endure all difficulties” and “love is forever”. I suggest all of those may be used to broaden our understanding of what Paul’s words may cover. The all things part is thought to mean, by implication, all things difficult.
Enduring the Attack on LoveA lot of the world has been intolerant and attacking of love when it comes in forms different than that of its attackers. In my career as a family and relational therapist I frequently was called upon to assist individuals, couples ,families, alternate lifestylers and others in their fight against those who did not want them to do love the way they were doing it. In counseling sessions, often in court, once in a while in public forums and in politics I and others like me have battled for loves diversity and against anti-love bigotry, prejudice, intolerance, bias, and ignorance.
One of the most common difficulties concerning tens of thousands of couples, parents, families and others who are challenged to endure is the ongoing intolerance for who, and how, others do their love. Issues of bi-racial love, bi-sexual love (see “Gender Diversity Love”), gay love, throuple love (see “Throuple Love, A Growing Worldwide Way of the Future?”), elder love (see “Elder Love”), age different love (see “Should Age Make A Difference – In Love” and “Age Differences and Romantic Love”), different religions love, parental love, family love, etc. – all have their active and often well-meaning but sometimes vicious enemies.
Those who choose a path of love different from the accepted can face family banishment, legal battles over custody of children, public shaming, forced isolation from loved ones and their home communities, efforts to break up their marriages, costly legal entanglements, episodes of hate, rejection and condemnation and even being honor killed – all because of who and how they do their love relationships – differently.
Enduring family rejection that lasts for years unfortunately is very common in the lives of those who do love out of the norm. It is so wonderful when this is finally overcome and reconciliation occurs which very often it does with the help of family counseling and/or coaching. When loving re-connection does not happen, escape to a new environment full of new and more loving people frequently is the best solution. Given the chance, love will find a way.
One more thing: Do you have friends who like to discuss things religious, spiritual, denominational, theological or ecumenical? If so, you might want to talk over this mini-love-lesson and this series with them. If you do, please do mention this site. Thank you!
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Quotable Question: Is your way of doing religion leading you to the ways of more love? If not, where is it leading you to?