Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Intentional Love: Assistance

Continued from the post: Intentional Love: Goodwill

by Troy Chapman

(published February 06)

When I'm able to maintain this desire for any length of time it leads to the third face of intentional love: assistance — turning my desire into some form of action.

This action may be prayer, or speaking a word for consciousness and against callousness. It may be running a class here in prison or simply listening to someone.

Since all things are connected this action doesn't have to directly affect what initially moves me. Seeing starving children in Africa can provoke me to donate cosmetics to the church to be distributed to those in need. Or I can remember these children while working in the garden here to grow vegetables for poor families in the surrounding community. Or I can write a letter to someone who's lonely or talk to another prisoner about his kids and give him ideas for connecting more deeply with them.

When we recognize the intrinsic value of one thing we recognize the value of all things. When we assist one, we assist all. Too often we see big things that are being done by celebrities and others with big resources and we get performance anxiety. We freeze up and don't do anything.

But love is not a competition. Remember the words of Mother Teresa: We can do no great things — only small things with great love. Listen to your own spirit and do what you are led to do. What's in your heart at the moment of action is more important than the action itself. Honor yourself as you honor others with your actions and the third face of intentional love will smile on you and on the world through you.

In conclusion, this is a look at love as a practice. We've drawn a distinction between intentional and unintentional love and identified the three faces of love: reverence, goodwill, and assistance.

I know from personal experience that when we wear these three faces by practicing intentional love, the first result is always our own transformation. So if we are committed to bringing out the image of God within us we should consider adopting reverence, goodwill, and assistance as daily spiritual practices. As Sister Therese of Lisieux said: That will be my life, to scatter flowers — to miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word, always doing the tiniest things right, and doing it for love.

For, as Joseph Fort Newton points out, when we get out of ourselves and into the lives of others new life flows into us.

Changing the world, as much as we may care about it, will never be sufficient motive to practice love. We must practice it because we know it is the only hope of healing and transforming ourselves as well as the world.