This past year I’ve been captured by Hildebrand’s philosophy of love like nothing else. The way in which he speaks of the beloved's unrepeatable worth mesmerized my romantic heart. In the very beginning of his work The Nature of Love he says,
“It is essential for every kind of love that the beloved person stands before me as precious beautiful and lovable”(2).
Even just from that snippet, please don’t try and tell me you can read this stuff and not get sappy.
One of the most basic things you need to understand is that for Hildebrand love is a value-response. To interpret, love flows from the heart because I have perceived the other person as valuable, “precious, beautiful and lovable”(3). Human love is because we see the other person and we see their beauty and preciousness of this unique personality as a whole (4). Being in love itself sounds like exhilarating, safe, and peaceful all at the same time. If you’ve been in love maybe this description resonates in your heart.
As much as I enjoy reading his descriptions of love, I was haunted by the idea that the love which Hildebrand describes is idealistic.
I’ve had too many experiences of my best friend sobbing in a pillow over her broken heart that was in love to believe that love like that exists. Love isn’t forever. Love is breakable. People give up. People break up. And that value which I know my best friend possesses did it go away? Of course not. She is beautiful, precious and lovable. How could someone who once saw that, stop?
My romantic heart couldn’t take the cynicism, I wanted so desperately to believe that love is real. I wanted to believe that it exists where you can find your own beloved person and have them stand before you and your before them “precious, beautiful, and lovable” in a way that doesn’t pass with the latest fashion.
So what’s the deal? How can break ups between people who were in love be a thing?
In the second to last chapter, Hildebrand finally brings up what I consider to be the most fundamental question “Faithfulness”.
Faithfulness is the abiding in the love to which one has made a commitment, never forgetting the “word” of love that was spoken to the other. What is the “word” of love? It is the spoken binding commitment to the other. It is not merely saying “I love you”, but in vowing to love that person for the rest of your life you are speaking the “word” of love. One of the key features of faithfulness is that it is only binding in as far as the “word” of love was spoken. Spousal love (aka love between man and a woman aimed towards marriage), has no pressure of obligation, except to exclusivity, until it freely enters into such an obligation through the “word” of love (marriage).
Spousal love before such a “word” of love is spoken is only aimed at the discovery of the person with whom you will speak the word of love. It would be nonsensical to suppose that such a word is spoken with every person of the opposite sex that you ever encounter. There is a choice in the matter. There are person's to whom you are particularly drawn. You are not drawn so as to have no choice in the matter, but you can choose to respond to the value of the other.
Falling out of love is painful. There is no doubt about that. But simply because you’ve witnessed or experienced its pain does not mean that love is idealistic or incapable of being had. Don’t let yourself become a cynic. Cling to the knowledge of your own personal value, and work to develop it in ways that make it more clear to others.
Love is strong, tender, meek and audacious (7). Never forget.
(1) Image One
(2) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Nature of Love, 17
(4) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Nature of Love, 23
(5) Image Two
(6) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Nature of Love, 374
(7) Image Three