B: What’s that twinkle in your eye?
A: Nothing. Why?
B: It may just be my imagination or something but you look rather jolly and it is written all over your face.
A: What does it say? I mean, what is written all over my face?
B: Well, nothing. I don’t want to preempt anything in our chats. You know I never forced you to tell me anything you don’t want to say…
A: Okay then. I will tell you.
A: I’m in love!
B: And so I heard. I ‘smelled’ it from the very start…
A: That’s why they call you Dr. Love…
B: I think they call me that just to pull my leg. It was coined by one of my friends after I gave a talk on the nuances of love: eros, philia and agape.
A: I guess you have to explain those things to me as well. Perhaps in another chat. I am wondering how you have detected in the first place that I’m in love?
B: I do not have to do anything but ‘smell’, or rather ‘read’… As I told you, it’s written all over your face! I remember a couple of years ago when my best friend got married. He was particularly good looking on his wedding day—with a tinge of rosy cheeks. He was not into cosmetics, you know. He was waiting outside the church before the wedding march. I gave him my ‘fatherly’ embrace and could not resist asking him, “Why are you so handsome today?”
A: What did he say?
B: He gave me a very simple yet rich reply: It’s grace, Oliver.
A: What did he mean?
B: I did not actually ask him because he had to attend to the other guests who wanted to greet him. I guess he was referring to the graces that come with the Sacrament of Matrimony.
A: And those graces are enough to make one particularly good looking?
B: He may just be speaking figuratively. What I am sure of is that he partly refers to being in the state of grace, which makes you the happiest man or woman in the world. And that happiness is naturally communicated to your entire being—body and soul. As an Italian proverb says, “When the soul is happy, the body dances.”
A: Is that why saints look good? I mean, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta… I heard that she was not particularly pretty as we say it. But she projects a certain type of beauty that gravitates people to her.
B: I guess that is called inner beauty, which shines constantly when someone is in the state of grace.
A: I guess I have to always make an effort to be in the state of grace.
B: To look good?
A: Well, yes, I mean, to be happy, really happy.
B: And to attract girls?
A: Can that be part of it?
B: Well, it may be a consequence of it. But that could not be your main reason for it, right?
A: Right. But can you tell me more about that friend? He seemed to be so happy on his wedding day, and looked very good at that…
B: I won’t mention his name to you.
A: Yes, I know, you never mentioned anyone’s name in our chat, especially when you talk about these things. But can you tell me more about his secrets, I mean, he seemed to have made a mark in your life…
B: He actually did. I admire him for his capacity to love. That is why I think he is a happy man.
A: Capacity to love?
B: It means that he really knew how to love with all its consequences.
B: Yes. Love has consequences. It does not exist in a vacuum. It has strings attached. And it will only be enjoyed if you embrace all that goes with it, which could mean both joys and sorrows.
A: You are becoming more abstract. What are you trying to say?
B: Let me give you one example. That friend of mine used to live in Makati and work in Pasay. But before going back home from work, he still comes to Quezon City in order to live up to some commitments he made before he graduated from college.
A: Oh that means zigzagging from one place to another. Isn’t that tiring?
B: It is. But when he decides to commit himself to an undertaking, he gives it his all even if it would mean giving himself a hard time in order to fulfill what that commitment entails. In short, he knew how to give himself completely. That’s the secret of love. It is also the secret of man’s happiness—that you and I are gifts.
A: Gifts? As in…
B: Presents. That we fulfill ourselves—we become happy—in so far as we give ourselves to others. This happens not only in marriage but also in our day-to-day dealings with our fellows, and ultimately, in our relationship with God.
A: But isn’t that sad? I mean, I won’t have time to think of myself anymore?
B: That’s the paradox of it all—that we only learn to be truly happy in so far as we learn how to forget ourselves. I am not referring to forgetting to take a bath, or doing your household chores or schoolwork, but in precisely doing these same things with the intention of serving others—which is actually a concrete way of giving ourselves to others.
A: Whew! Are you sure of that?
B: Yes, very much. I have seen it in the lives of many people. Think about your own family. What happens when there is tension at home?
A: When my parents fight? When I fight with my siblings?
B: Let us focus on you. What happens when you fight your siblings, I mean, when and why do you do that?
A: Of course, it’s when I think I am right and my brother insists he is also right.
B: Can you not discuss the matter—who is right—without having to fight?
A: Well, I guess so. But it just happens, you know… especially when I really think I am right.
B: Let’s say you are right. But can you not say it nicely? That is part of self-giving. There is always trouble in a relationship when one of the parties stops giving himself or herself.
A: Is that what also happens when mom and dad fight?
B: Most likely. There could be many reasons but the ultimate one, we can say, is when they stop giving themselves to each other. Because each one has defects—both your mom and dad—and if they insist on criticizing those defects, there would be endless strife at home. Part of self-giving is this: while we help another overcome his or her defects, we appreciate the efforts made and understand the apparent failures.
A: Apparent failures?
B: Yes, I use apparent because they are just temporary, borne out of our human weakness. That is why a modern saint said so succinctly that charity, more than in giving, is understanding.
A: Even if it means a lot of sacrifice?
B: In fact, love without sacrifice—at least in this world—is rather doubtful. If someone tells you that she loves you and would not be willing to sacrifice her time to attend to your needs or simply be with you, won’t you think twice about the sincerity of her love?
A: Of course! But I am still quite uncomfortable with sacrifice.
B: Let me then give you its deeper meaning. Sacrifice actually comes from two Latin words, sacrum and facere. Sacrum means ‘holy’ and facere means ‘to make’. And so when you sacrifice…
A: You make yourself holy?
B: Not only that. You also make that thing you are doing holy, as well as the person to whom you are doing it.
A: Oh, that’s rather deep. Can you explain it a bit more?
B: When I say holy, I do not mean behaving strangely, like pretending to be angels on earth. It means doing the right thing. And for you to be consistent in doing the right thing, you have to be a man of sacrifice, that is, you are not carried away by passing fads and by what you feel like at a given moment.
A: What’s wrong with giving in to what I feel like doing?
B: I refer more to doing what is right all the time, whether you feel like it or not. Sometimes, it is quite pleasant to do what is right. But what happens when doing the right thing may not be popular or pleasurable?
A: That I still have to do it?
B: Yes. And that’s the mark of maturity in love—that it is not based on mere feelings.
A: But can’t feelings help me love?
B: Of course they do. But you should not confuse them with love itself. As we discussed earlier, love is much deeper than mere feelings. It consists in sacrifice—in s-e-l-f-g-i-v-i-n-g, especially when you don’t feel like it anymore.
A: Isn’t that hard?
B: I am not saying it is easy. But are you only willing to do things that are easy?
B: Let me rephrase that question. Do you want to be loved all the time and not only when it is easy to love you?
A: That’s easier to answer. Of course I want to be loved all the time, unconditionally!
B: Even when you are not particularly lovable? I mean, when your defects—like we all have—come out.
A: I guess so. Do I sound selfish?
B: It’s but natural to want to be loved unconditionally. Precisely, that’s part of the essence of love. Without it, you have reasons to doubt it. That is why what they call ‘pre-nup’ agreements where the spouses pre-arrange how things would be like in case they separate are mere caricatures of love. Love should have no if’s and but’s. It is always total, complete, unconditional.
A: And so I have to love that way too?
B: Of course! Why do you demand from someone something that you are not willing to do yourself? That’s what it means to be selfish.
A: What do I do?
B: Train yourself to love.
B: By training your will—that internal faculty you have of choosing. Train yourself to choose the good all the time, even when it is not pleasurable, like getting up from bed when you hear the alarm clock ring or choosing to be honest when many of your classmates are cheating. In that way, you will better understand the saying that love is ‘willing’ more than ‘feeling’. Then sacrificing yourself in order to do good come in handy. In a sense, one may say that sacrifice is not really that hard anymore.
B: Yes. Just look at your parents. They do not count it as ‘sacrifice’ when they face all the difficult things in order to keep their relationship stable, or work overtime to be able to take care of your family needs, or bring you to school, and so on and so forth.
A: That’s right. I never heard dad and mom complain about all that.
B: Because they have learned to love truly. Things may not have been like that when they were younger.
A: Okay. I think I get the point now.
B: Let me now ask you a question.
A: What? To see if I am really getting the whole thing?
B: Well, yes. It’s also the question I have been asked over and over again, but I am confident that you can now answer it after all this discussion. How do you know that you are truly in love with someone?
A: When I am willing to sacrifice for her?
B: Presto! With all the consequences that sacrifice means… until death. So, are you really in love?
A: Let me think more about it.