There is a common misunderstanding in the hearts of women when it comes to love. A woman’s love for another is represented in many different ways: her ability to serve, to trust, to forgive and to sacrifice.
It is a prevailing characteristic in the hearts of women to sacrifice their feelings ‘for the sake of the other’ in any given moment. She sees herself undoubtedly second, if in the case she sees herself at all. The natural instinct to care primarily for herself is overtaken by the person before her, who she believes their needs are greater than hers. This sacrifice has beautiful consequences, especially for the other’s sake like that of making someone else calm in her presence because she presents herself as calm. But what happens to the woman? Sometimes she will love so dearly that she loses sight of who she is. The emotions that are manifested in her nature are cut through. The pain in her heart is unexplainable because all she knows is that she is loving the other. She realizes she is damaged or hurt, but it is easier to hide the reality than to admit the pain to another. In some sense, she inclines to feel guilt. She forgets her happiness because all she wishes is the other’s. But in that brief moment, it is okay because the other is happy, everyone’s happy...so it seems.
This happens on many occasions. We see it in the live’s of mothers, friendships, and couples. In the case of the couple, we look at the man and the woman who can longer be with each other. The woman has a great love for the man, but the man does not love her back. What does this relationship usually end up like? In most cases, it looks like friendship. He still wants to be friends with her and if this is what makes him happy, she will do so because she loves him. Just maybe being friends with him will be the best for him even though in the depths of her heart she knows it hurts her to be friends with him but not be with the one she loves. There are many mixed emotions in this case, she does not want to hurt him by telling him she cannot be friends, she still hopes that something might work out if she presents herself as doing well, or she does not know what to do because she hurts so much and nothing else makes sense. This type of scenario occurs regularly in not only breakups, but in friendships between two girls or the mother who is constantly giving herself for her family and is not take care of herself emotionally. It is very easy for us to feel like we owe the other something.
As women, the last desire for us is to hurt someone when all we want to do is love and to be loved. What is mistaken in the ‘sacrifice’ of the woman’s emotion is the difference in our natural human rights and what we think is right. In our mind, we have concluded from our experiences of how we ought to respond and handle a situation. In so many of my experiences, I was told that I had to always ‘do for the other’ which was never necessarily bad, but impacted me greatly. I thought I always had to ‘do for the other’ first. I owed people something and I did not know why. This instinct led to experiences such as cleaning the house for my mom while she was at work, being the perfect child in public because people talked around in our small town, or feeling guilted into being friends with someone no matter what kind of person they were and how they affected me. One may call acts like these towards the other Christian charity or ‘love of neighbor.’ These experiences led me think that I had to or that I should do things without thinking of myself first. “The exclusive “for the other’s sake,” the removal of my own person, my own happiness and subjectivity [Eigenleben]” should represent the pure self-donation of my being, not guilt or lack of understanding. (1) I could not fully do so without knowing my basic human rights. The obligation was embedded and the outcome was always for the other. Whatever experience it might have been for you, it plays a role in how you respond to the other especially as being a woman, how you respond in all circumstances.
It is not to say that men do not share in this emotional sacrifice of the heart. But it is to say that women embody their emotions so intricately that the interior sacrifice occurs more frequently, than in men. It does matter what we do for others. And that we do, do for others, but to what extent? To the point of a consistent broken heart in need of space and healing? To the point where a mother cannot love herself anymore? To the point that two friends hurt each other, but still feel that they have to be friends? No, we have rights as a person and to the needs of our heart, we have rights to our feelings. When we come to a place of true understanding of loving ourselves first, then loving another with a ‘pure self-donation’ will genuinely fulfill its purpose.
Image 1. Head of Woman
 Dietrich von Hildebrand’s The Nature of Love. South Bend: St. Augustine's Press, 2009. p.139