Continuing with my reflections based on Dietrich von Hildebrand’s book, The Nature of Love, today we address a characteristic of love as a value-response towards friendship.
The sun was beating down, casting a shadow below me. There I sat, suspended above the ground moving forward and back as gravity pulled me back down towards the earth. Every time I came back down, I poked my toes to the ground letting them lazily brush against the rocks. The creaking sound of the swing was at once alarming and exhilarating. It felt as if the chains would break under the pressure of my body. In the background, I could hear the laughter of other children as they imagined new adventures on the playground.
Why couldn’t I play with the others? I did not know, but I wasn’t even sure I wanted to play with them. I just sat there swaying back and forth over my shadow, thinking, but not knowing. As some time passed, another girl came and sat down in the swing next to me. Her name was Maria. Smiling, she said hello to me and asked me my name. I responded immediately with a beaming expression and a short hello. After a couple of minutes our conversation ceased, we laughed and swung together the rest of the recess. We became good friends.
In Dietrich von Hildebrand’s book, The Nature of Love, he speaks of love as the most affective value-response compared to other value-responses such as veneration or admiration. “For love is...incomparably more affective than all of these, and not just in the sense of a difference of degree, but rather of an entirely new involvement of the heart.” (1) No other value-response affects the subject so powerfully as love. The value of the beloved, her intrinsic worth and splendor, moves the lover in such a way that the only proper response on the part of the beloved is to return this love.
Before my encounter with Maria, I never knew what it meant to be loved in friendship. I did not fully understand that I was alone on the swing set, though I surely felt it. I thought there was nothing more than the isolation I found myself in. I thought this was all there was. She responded to my value as a person recognizing who I was, another person with dignity. Maria approached the value of myself with reverence of my true dignity and chose to love me for my unique value. I responded to her kindness by growing in a friendship with her. She could have responded to my value with a smile and walked by. Instead, she sat on the swing and got to know me.
For many of us, we find it easiest to respond to the value of others with a certain level of detachment of admiration or veneration. If we could enter more deeply into a value-response to others and respond with love, how much greater will love become known to those around us. Let us be like Maria and respond to others in a love of friendship so that we can share with others the overflowing goodness of love.
Image 1. Two Girls Who get on Swing in Evening. August 2008 Wikimedia Commons
 Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009) 43.