We're looking at the characteristics of true love this month, and I ended last week's column by saying true love contains elements of sacrifice and tragedy. In fact, true love is sacrifice; yet the tragedy of true love rarely appears since so few are willing to commit to the sacrifice in the first place.
© 2003 By D. Eric Williams
Tragedy in the classic sense is a tale describing the downfall of a hero. The quintessential example of tragic love in literature is Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." As you may recall it's a story of lovers whose desire is thwarted and ends in death. What is often overlooked is the willingness of the lovers to leave behind everything that defined who they were for the sake of the other. The tragic element of the story began with the descent of the lovers into a condition of hostility with their own families. Yet the tragic genre really requires that the hero meet an untimely death in the pursuit of his lover. Thus Romeo and Juliet both willingly die for the sake of their love before the tale concludes.
We need to understand that Shakespeare wasn't writing fiction when he penned the story of Romeo and Juliet. He was relating truth. Yes, he "made up" the account; but the message of the tale was one of ageless truth.
In other words, true love is willing to leave behind "self" in favor of another. It's the good of your loved one which is forefront in your thinking, not "finding yourself," self gain, self justification, self worth - or anything to do with "self." True love involves death of self. It means you don't want to call attention to yourself; instead of boasting in self, love seeks to honor the object of affection. In a nut shell there is neither pride nor arrogance in true love. The reason behind this is that true love isn't self seeking. Because of this, true love also tends to have a reforming effect. If you love someone you will take pains to keep from doing things that bring shame upon yourself or your lover.
With all of this self sacrifice, some of us may end up being a bit grumpy and on edge. But alas, if you want to maintain an attitude of true love, you won't easily become angry. Nor will you keep a record of the wrongs your lover has committed against you - waiting for the opportunity to blow up once the pressure builds to the boiling point. It's not that true love enjoys seeing the loved one do wrong - not at all. Indeed, true love finds joy in seeing the object of love do what is right.
As you can see, true love is never defeated, never knocked down for good. True love persists even when rejected.
We don't see this sort of thing very often now-a-days. Sacrifice and tragedy have gone out of style, so it seems. And the world is a poorer place because of it. Yet, what has really gone out of style is the state of being required to foster sacrificial and tragic love. And what is that "state of being?" We will look at that some time in the future.