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Desire, Goodwill, Reciprocity: Love and Responsibility Series (Post #6)



Love as Desire:

Desire is of the essence of love,”[i] Wojtyla writes in the next section of Love and Responsibility. Desire originates in a need: men and women need each other. Sex is also “a limitation, an imbalance,”[ii] Wojtyla writes, and the need to be united to someone of the other sex drives people to one another. Wojtyla draws a distinction between the sexual desire active in love and sexual desire that is lustful, which could be satisfied by anyone who happens to be available. Love as desire is a longing for a particular person, not just a body. It gives sexual desire a proper direction.  

Love as Goodwill:
To see how love as desire can grow into a fuller love, Wojtyla explains love as goodwill, which focuses on the choice to love. “Love is an activity.”[iii] Goodwill is synonymous with selflessness in love—a desire for what is best for the other person. Goodwill reveals the unconditional nature of love and can be demonstrated by the ability to let go of the relationship if it is not objectively good. Wojtyla says that the love of man and woman, “cannot but be love as desire, but must as time goes by move more and more in the direction of unqualified goodwill.”[iv] Desire is a beginning for love, but goodwill is necessary for growth.

Love as Reciprocity:
Reciprocity is presented in the next section as a “problem.” We all know the experience of liking someone who doesn’t like us back, and vice versa. Reciprocity—the giving of love for love—is a consideration, not of what is happening in the man or in the woman (as the previous sections have been), but rather what is occurring between them. Reciprocity is the mutual part of love, when a couple moves from “I” to “we.” This occurs, “through a commitment of the will.”[v] Love by its nature is bilateral, shared between two persons.[vi]Here Wojtyla clears up the idea that seeking a return of love is somehow selfish or self-centered. It’s not! Hoping that the other person cares for you as much as, and in basically the same way as, you care for him or her is natural and healthy. “Since reciprocity is in the very nature of love, since the interpersonal character of love depends on it, we can hardly speak of ‘selfishness’ in this context. The desire for reciprocity does not cancel out the disinterested character of love.”[vii] This may be helpful, especially for women who are perhaps more likely to focus on giving love without seeking a return.

Of course, reciprocity depends on what each person brings to love—is it just infatuation, attraction, desire, or is it a virtuous love? Only if both persons bring virtuous love to the relationship do trust, durability, and reliability come along.

Virtuous Love:
Let’s say one of the people is virtuous and the other is not. This is a breeding ground for jealousy, suspicion, and other problems. A person who is not trustworthy cannot form a relationship of trust; in the same way, love between a man and a woman is not mature if either of the persons is not committed to caring for the other above their own desires. That’s not a good foundation for a relationship. Wojtyla’s practical conclusion to this section is: “People should always carefully ‘verify’ their love before exchanging declarations, and especially before acknowledging it as their vocation and beginning to build their lives upon it… They must determine what their reciprocity relies on, and whether it is not apparent rather than real.”[viii]

Before you say, “I love you,” or go to look at rings, ask yourselves, “What is our love based on? Do we both know and desire what is good for the other person? Do we both seek to put the other first? Are we both seeking virtue?”

 

 

 

[i] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 80.

[ii] Ibid, p. 81.

[iii] Ibid, p. 82.

[iv] Ibid, p. 84.

[v] Ibid, p. 85.

[vi] Wojtyla briefly addresses unrequited love in this section, since even if it feels like genuine love, it is not, and it must “die”  because it is incomplete.

[vii] Ibid, p. 86.

[viii] Ibid, p. 88.

[i] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 80.

[ii] Ibid, p. 81.

[iii] Ibid, p. 82.

[iv] Ibid, p. 84.

[v] Ibid, p. 85.

[vi] Ibid, p. 85.

[vii] Ibid, p. 86.

[viii] Ibid, p. 88.

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