Love is patient;
love is kind;
love is not envious
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice in wrongdoing,
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.
These words from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (13:4-8) have to be among the most challenging but also the wisest and truest comments ever made about love, true love, that is, love that fully deserves that name.
In ‘Decreation: How Women Like Sappho, Marguerite Porete and Simone Weil Tell God’, an essay I have referred to before, Anne Carson offers her own reflections on love, self and God in connection with the mysticism of Sappho, Marguerite Porete and Simone Weil. She notes, rightly, I think, that almost everything that passes as love is little more than self-love.
True love is characterised by patience and kindness. It cares for the Other, whoever that Other may be (love does not discriminate between who is, and isn’t, lovable), and does not insist on its own way. It bears, believes, hopes and endures everything; and it never ends. Now that is a challenge!
Yet, says Paul, I can have all knowledge and understanding, all faith even, but if I ‘do not have love, I am nothing’. There is no choice then, is there? It also is the most worthy of goals.