What is the right way to respond to pandemics? What is the right way to educate children? What about healthcare?
What’s the right relationship between the sexes? What is the right relationship with family? With tradition? With the past? With religion?
What’s the right way to conduct a career? The right way to become a man (or a woman)?
It seems like everyone on Twitter (and presumably elsewhere) has an opinion on these questions. And as I get older, I learn how bewilderingly broad the debate is, how many sides there are to these questions, and just how ideologically blinded those sides can be – even the ones I often agree with.
I’ve had lots of positions on lots of things. Sometimes I’ve changed my mind. Sometimes I’ve completely flipped positions. Other times I’ve reached a fusion or a third-way approach. But I’ve come to realize there will likely never be a consensus, there will likely never be a clear mandate (divine or human), and there will never likely be a simple “right” answer to the complex problems of human life.
However, there is one certainty I have that grows with age: anything done without love is meaningless. And by “love,” I mean wanting the best for the specific individual human being in front of you (though there is an even better sense of the word).
The democratic socialists could achieve their hoped-for utopia of fully-collectivized education and healthcare and welfare for all sorts of situations. But if genuine love has taken a backseat to ideology, it will be a cold and destructive dystopia. The same is true for people who would have their education and healthcare run by churches and nonprofits.
The traditionalists may be right that women are happiest in the home and men happiest leading homes. Or the feminists may be right that women should compete with men for the same jobs, the same positions, and the same social roles. But if either side (and usually, it’s both) leaves no room for love, its victory in the culture wars *will* create suffering, regardless of whether its policy prescription is right.
What’s my point?
It’s not worth going on and on about whose side is right and what policy is right if something so basic is broken.
Set aside for a moment whether or not your ideology is correct. That’s an important debate, and it will take a long, long time. But you can determine within seconds if you truly have love in your heart, or if what you are preaching and advancing in the world springs from that love. Check your heart first and you could save yourself a lot of time.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.St. Paul, “1 Corinthians 13”