I am 23 years old and am aware that I have this great potential within me. I have found the “be whoever you want to be” motto of my grade school days a flop, but I haven’t given up on the heart of its message. I am a person and so full of possibilities. What will help me realize them?
“Love is the fullest realization of the possibilities in man” (1).
Karol Wojtyla describes three qualities of love. Love as attraction, love as desire and love as goodwill. These qualities he uses to describe the love between man and woman. If we think in terms of Dietrich von Hildebrand’s scale of values there is an analogy to the subjectively satisfying, the objective good for me, and the values which are good in themselves. Hildebrand’s scale of values as qualities of love will be helpful to see love in the context of many different relationships. Here are examples for each. First, I am concerned for my sister when she is sick and I bring her to the doctor. This is love as goodwill and a value response. Second, I am stuck on how to do research for my thesis and I ask my teacher. This is a type of love as desire and an objective good for me. Third, at dinner, my friend is hilarious. This is a type of love as attraction and subjectively satisfying.
These categories allow us to see that love is not only a good outside of me, but something good for me, and even pleasing to me. I want to challenge our generation to think about and work towards love, and allow its pieces to come together in our lives. This might be a slow and messy process, but if we never try we will never succeed.
Let’s aim for the heights. Love as goodwill is the highest quality of love. It is a value response. It is where we are at our greatest potential in loving another, and the receptivity of this love is when we are most deeply loved. Other qualities can exist simultaneously, but love as goodwill is when the great potential within me is being realized. As Wojtyla explains, “It is not enough to long for a person as a good for oneself, one must also, and above all, long for that person’s good” (2). When we consider those we’ve been given to love, we may find that we naturally love them in this way. For example, your friend is at a job interview and you think to yourself, “I hope she does well.” This hope doesn’t have to do with a benefit for you, but for your friend. In this example you have the goodwill of another in mind without a direct correlation to your good. This is a small form of love as good will and a value response.
Love as goodwill can have a powerful effect when it is present in a relationship and when it is absent. Let’s first look at an example of its absence….
In the mid 20th century, there were religious houses with over 100 novices (sisters-in-training). Some of these novices were encouraged to stay because being a sister is a good, or because it is a good to have more sisters for the community. With only one director over so many novices, formation became less personal. When the personal is lost, so is love as goodwill. In these cases, the novices weren’t being loved for their own sake when their personal good could not be considered. The response they received from their superior was a response of love for the community and even a value response to the beauty of religious life, but love as goodwill was lost.
Here I come, over fifty years later. I am one of about twenty novices in a religious community. Each week I meet with my superior and consider how this life is corresponding to who I am. My director knows me personally. She lives with me, works with me, eats with me, play sports with me. I am a person to her.
This personal relationship, contrasted to the experience of the novices in the 1950s, more easily facilitated love as goodwill. When the person in front of us is deeply known, it is easier to put love as goodwill in front of all other loves. When this love is chosen, we get a taste of “the fullest realization of the possibilities of man” (5).
Sister asked me, “Have you ever considered any other vocations?” This question would have been rare for a novice fifty years ago. What is this love I was receiving that many did not? This is love as goodwill. My specific good was being valued as the highest good in the decision.
There are two components of love as goodwill. First, how the good of the other is oriented in the lover’s mind. Second, how the lover’s will is motivated by the good of the other. Karol Wojtyla explains in Love and Responsibility that goodwill is “not ‘I long for you as a good’ but ‘I long for your good’, ‘I long for that which is good for you’” (6). It may be helpful to read the quote a couple times to understand the distinction. What Wojtyla is saying is that each person has a specific good. In order to love, I must reach beyond how the person is a good for me, and even beyond the person being a good in herself. I must acknowledge that the one I love has a specific good that I do not know. This is the beginning of love as goodwill and this love has a powerfully positive effect on us.
My superior did not sit with me thinking, “Emma is good.” This response is stagnant. Instead she allowed her mind to go deeper into love, and her words and attitude toward me communicated “Emma has a specific good.” The creativity and truth in this frame of mind moved me to begin the quest to discover this specific good for myself. With love as goodwill, the recipient of love finds freedom to realize this specific good. Only I have the ability to realize my specific good. Only you have the ability to realize your specific good. Love as goodwill from another is powerful and necessary for “the fullest realization of the possibilities in man” (7).
1. Image 1
1. Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, 82.
2. Ibid 83.
3. Image 2
4. Image 3
5. Ibid 82.
6. Ibid 83.
7. Ibid 82.