Love as God intends?

“What satisfies Love best of all is that we be wholly stripped of all repose, whether in strangers, or in friends, or even in Love herself. And this is a frightening life Love wants, that we must do without the satisfaction of Love in order to satisfy Love. They who are thus drawn and accepted by Love, and fettered by her, are the most indebted to Love and consequently they must continually stand subject to the great power of her strong nature, to content her. And that life is miserable beyond all that the human heart can bear.” --Hadewijch of Antwerp

Is this a fair description of true love? Is this love as God intends? We love most of the time, I am thinking, so as to have it returned to us, making it, in its most common form, an avenue for an ego stroke. We mourn when it is unreturned. True love, by contrast, would seem to be a love that is not at all interested in what comes back. We love because we love.

But this is “frightening” as Hadewijch put it, satisfying love without the satisfaction of love. I have loved unrequited before in my life (once my unrequited love tragically – almost comically – involved a woman I was married to at the time!) This is painful love. “Beyond all that the human heart can bear.”

Why? Why should we be so wounded in love merely if it is unreturned to us? Aren’t we richer for loving?

Doing a kindness for someone that is unknowing, unthankful, unworthy or all of the above is a theme repeated over and over in The Big Picture. It’s at the very heart of all greater goods, and it’s an echo of how God treats us.

Assuming a god exists (gargantuan leap) what makes you possibly think you could know his/her intentions?
How very arrogant…

The people who believe we know something of God’s intentions believe we came by this knowledge because He went out of His way to tell us, not because we have some keen insight or reason we ought to be proud of. I think an accusation of arrogance is misplaced.

While we at it, Mr. Devil guy, what’s your beef with arrogance in the first place?

I only have a beef with unfounded arrogance. Before you ask who decides what is ‘founded’, the answer is ‘I do’

Anyway, if you really believe your invisible friend is talking to you, well…have at it. Personally I’d rather believe I was in a hot tub full of horny supermodels, but fantasy is fantasy I guess…to each their own.

the ultimate expression of love…

Allah’u Ackbar!!


Well, in that case, you seem to be an authority on arrogance and I won’t challenge you on the matter.

Well, that was rather easier than I thought it would be.

Hi, Ucc. (By the way, I never got around to opining on the sig. Like it. Keep it. It’s you, man.)

I understand the idea of doing a kindness for somebody for nothing in return. Even still, there does seem to be some satisfaction we can get out of that.

But unconditional love – absent even (or especially) the condition of experiencing its return - seems like a pretty tall order. This is especially true I am thinking with love from man to woman, or vice-verse. I think this is what Hadewijch was referring to. But it could be related to any form of love including love for God, in those times when we feel forsaken (actually that might be what Hadewijch was referring to).

Is unreturned love too much to ask of mortal beings? Its price is steep…very steep. Is there some satisfaction that can be gained in the loving itself?

I would say that normal love for another does not require knowing them but more agreement with what they represent. In this way love moves through us and we are actually serving as a medium for it. How many people love their mates or their children but don’ t know them? It happens much more then you’d think. This love may or may not be returned depending upon the image you create for them allowing love to move through them.

Christian love is of a different quality since it doesn’t just move through you but also originates with you in opposition to our normal tendency to deny it. It requires knowing the person behind the image and respecting their potential. In this way one loves their nothingness in relation to human potential as we love our own nothingness in respect to our potential. From this perspective Jesus saying: “forgive them for they know not what they do” makes perfect sense in that it allows love to replace egotistical denial.

This is the ancient goal of becoming able to put oneself within the position of another. There is no judgment or analysis here but just being able to experience another that starts with the desire to do so without concern for ones own preconceptions. But of course we cannot do this. We ask for honesty but in the great majority of cases it is only for the freedom to judge rather then impartially appreciate.

This is the love of potential and Christian love. We may help others as naturally ethical human beings and yet intentionally harm others that threaten our self esteem. It assumes somethingness initiating our response This is human nature. Yet true Christian love begins with the recognition of nothingness and the support of another’s desire to “awaken” which is the essence of Christianity. In this way we love our neighbor as ourselves in the goal of awakening. Ethical love then exists within Christian love but they are not the same.

Jerry asks:

Being able to give love invites love. This does not mean only intensity but quality. A man kills his wife because he caught her cheating and loved her so much he had to kill her. This is a very intense expression of egotistical love and invites death. Yet the love of another for their sake and knowing them and not primarily what their image means invites a quality of love that can do the same so is returned by those capable.

Being open to the human condition without judgment opens one to the experience of higher love.

I see the dominance of intense egotistical love in respect to image emphasized in our culture so it is not surprising to me that it should turn on itself and produce the opposite once the image wears off.

I think unconditional love in the man for a woman variety is a dangerous thing, and may not even be the sort that God would ask of us. We can love all sorts of people and all sorts of ways, but the kind of unrequited love you are talking about would have to include an element of lust, I should think- I call it lust because if it’s unreturned affection, that’s what it amounts to. If someone loves someone in the platonic or Godly sense, and that someone happens to be of the opposite sex, that’s one thing, but if we’re specifically talking about romantic love here, that’s another.
Now, I don’t want to even suggest that God is against romantic love. What I want to suggest is that romantic love unreturned isn’t really love, or if it is, it is a very fine line walked between that sort of love and lust, infatuation, obsession, and so on. Ask yourself this, if this love is not mutual, what it is about it that makes it specifically romantic love? Lust is all I can think of.

EDIT: Replace the first ‘unconditional’ with ‘unreturned’.

My assumption that God exists is actually based on God’s intentions, or more basically on God’s revelations, through the likes of Hadewijch of Antwerp, the Gospels, the Tao, etc, etc. And in the not-so-explicit revelations, like the beauty in my son’s eyes, the effect twilight has upon me, and even, my friend, in my love for you.

(There. Put that in your pipe and smoke it).

I disagree, Ucc. I have experienced unrequited love that I wouldn’t classify as lust. Yes, there was definitely an element of that, but I really, truly loved this woman. We were great friends and had been over the course of many years. I knew her well. Loved everything about her. Wanted her, not just sexually. What made it romantic love? My desire to be with her, to have a romantic relationship with her. Hell, I’d have married her.

I’m the better man for the love, of that I am certain. But this is a tough love, a lonely love, a heart-breaking love. But it’s love nonetheless, so I am wondering why it is so wrenching. Do we love merely to be loved? There has to be more, doesn’t there?

Hi, Nick. I agree with your observations about intensity and quality of love. On one end of the spectrum is your jealous killer. At the other end is Rick, making sure Ilsa’s plane gets safely away, her with Victor Laslow where she belongs, “part of his work…part of what keeps him going.” Both loves are intense. One is a quality love.

Yes, being able to give love invites love, but the invitation is not always accepted. And it is at this point where my interest is. The love moves through one, and the one serves as a medium for it (I like the way you put that). In my experience this has happened in such a way that it seemed, as Hadewijch put it, as though I was fettered by Love. And so I experienced Love. But I didn’t experience the satisfaction of returned love, for the invitation was not accepted. Does this make my love any less significant? Or does it make it more so perhaps since I was willing to experience it alone? Is it wrong to love alone? Is it not more important to love than to be loved?

Either way, what choice, really? Love chooses us. What, at that point, can one do?

Hi Jerry,

Are you asking about love as God intends, or love as we intend?

There might be just enough difference in the perspective to color or indeed, make large differences in our understanding.


Hi Jerry

Before getting into “returned love” I’d like to question what it means to be fettered by love in the context of pure spiritual perspective. First an excerpt from “Waiting for God” describing Simone Weil’s experience of love.

This is the poem that Simone Weil refers to written by George Herbert and titled “Love”

From his perspective, does love seek to fetter or to feed so that a person grows towards freedom?

Hi, JT. I am thinking that love as we intend involves a certain amount of “what’s-in-it-for-me.” Love as God intends comes with no such condition. But this is a very difficult love. Very difficult.

In a sense, I am asking why we form relationships.


Wow. Beautiful poem.

I think maybe love can both fetter and feed. I like the word fetter because it connotes the idea that maybe we really can’t help but be attached to love. It strikes us, sometimes without warning, and we are quite tied to it, really. Unable to ignore it. Maybe we try to escape it, but it’s always there, catching up with us. We can run only so long.

But if we have the proper perspective, as Simone undoubtedly did, then we find, to your point, that it is feeding us, even as it holds us captive.

I’m just not seeing it as freedom. But there are times perhaps when we should surrender to the captivity.

I think our gift to create, like our Father, is a awesome gift that we need to learn how to use properly. It would be good if our children were born from love instead of lust. THAT reminds me, God is love, God is truth, and philosophy is the search of truth, which sets us free…Hmmm So is philosophy the search for truth, God, love, and freedom?

Hi Jerry,

Why do we form relationships? Well, I suppose there are many possible answers, but I’m sensing that you are really asking about ideal relationships, or whatever may come as close as is possible.

This has to do with desire (another looooong thread) and intimacy which may lead to all sorts of things.

I may be going out on the limb a little, but I would opine that love is what it is without words. It is an experience, not a poem. True love is without attachment or disappointment. That someone does not, or cannot share those feelings is human attachment to illusion. Of course, this does not salve illusive desire, but that is perhaps another discussion…


God is love. We are of God and therefore our inherent nature is love. The closer we get to this inherent nature, the more we become it, we find that love is manifested naturally and the love we have for others is a consequence of this divine love. It’s a tuning into a frequency. Also true love between men and women, is an opportunity for us to know divine love. The process of loving and knowing love is symbiotic between man and God.