“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
“The only way of full knowledge lies in the act of love; this act transcends thought, it transcends words. It is the daring plunge into the experience of union.
Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.
Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.
Care and responsibility are constituent elements of love, but without respect for and knowledge of the beloved person, love deteriorates into domination and possessiveness.
Love is possible only if two persons communicate with each other from the center of their existence, hence if each one of them experiences himself from the center of his existence. Only in this ‘central experience’ is human reality, only here is aliveness, only here is the basis for love. Love, experienced thus is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together…they are one with each other by being one with themselves.
Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism. Yet, most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty.
If I love the other person, I feel one with him or her, but with him as he is, not as I need him to be as an object for my use. Respect thus implies the absence of exploitation: it allows the other to be, to change and to develop ‘in his own ways.’ This requires a commitment to know the other as a separate being, and not merely as a reflection of my own ego.
One is not loved accidentally; one’s own power to love produces love — just as being interested makes one interesting. People are concerned with the question of whether they are attractive while they forget that the essence of attractiveness is their own capacity to love. To love a person productively implies to care and to feel responsible for his life, not only for his physical existence but for the growth and development of all his human powers. To love productively is incompatible with being passive, with being an onlooker at the loved person’s life; it implies labor and care and the responsibility for his growth.
Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one’s capacity to love. Hence the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable. In pursuit of this aim they follow several paths. One, which is especially used by men, is to be successful, to be as powerful and rich as the social margin of one’s position permits. Another, used especially by women, is to make oneself attractive, by cultivating one’s body, dress, etc. Many of the ways to make oneself lovable are the same as those used to make oneself successful, to ‘win friends and influence people‘. As a matter of fact, what most people in our culture mean by being lovable is essentially a mixture between being popular and having sex appeal.
Infantile love follows the principle: “I love because I am loved.”
Mature love follows the principle: “I am loved because I love.”
Immature love says: “I love you because I need you.”
Mature love says: “I need you because I love you.”
Mature love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality; a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men, which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the sense of isolation and separateness, yet it permits him to be himself, to retain his integrity.
In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”
Excerpts from The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm.
~Erich Seligmann Fromm was a German-born American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist.
©Excellence Reporter 2019