Before he became Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla wrote a book called Love and Responsibility. In that book he unlocks the secret of happiness. Not surprisingly, happiness has to do with love. But the paradox is that we find love and happiness not when we try and get them for ourselves, but when we give them away. The following points explore a few key ideas from this important book.
Each person is an unrepeatable gift.
Every human being is a person. As such, the person is unique, unrepeatable. No one else can will for me; no one else can love for me. Each of us, as unique persons, has a gift to give, a gift that no one else can make. So the first step to finding love and happiness is to accept our own selves and the gifts that God has given us.
We could ask ourselves: What gifts has God given me? What do I really like about myself?
Making a gift of ourselves to others is the way to true happiness.
Once we know what our gifts are, then we can better see how to use them to help and love others. Some people can teach, some can write, some can draw or work with their hands. Those are only a few examples of the wonderful talents that people have, talents and gifts that can be used to enrich the lives of others.
But besides our talents, within each of us lies a deeper gift, the gift of our very person, our very self. This is the gift that people give when they love each other, and is the basis for the most special gift they make of themselves in marriage. When a man and a woman pledge to love each other for the rest of their lives, they are committing themselves at the deepest level. This spousal gift joins them in true love. And the paradox of love is found right here: that when we give ourselves away, we find happiness. It is the logic of Jesus, who said, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Mt 16:25). This brings us to the next important point.
Love is the opposite of using.
A fundamental idea that Wojtyla stresses is that love is the opposite of using. We know the difference. We know when we are using someone just to get what we want. Using does not respect others for the unique persons they are. It doesn’t get to the gift of the person.
In our society today, especially in the sexual sphere, using as opposed to loving has become the norm. Pornography is an acute example of this. Bodies are portrayed without any regard for the persons who are being used. All of this degrades persons, including those who use pornography, for they are drawn into this poisonous web.
Love, instead, takes a different path. It doesn’t use another person to obtain something, but makes a gift of one’s own self. The beloved then accepts that gift, and in turn makes a gift of him or herself. Responsibility comes in here, because we are responsible not only for our own gift, but for the gift of the other. In accepting the other, we practice true love, a love that doesn’t use another but seeks only the other’s true good.
These and other important ideas are found throughout Love and Responsibility. The new translation makes for easier reading and brings this treasure to a wider audience.
Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP is the Editor of Love and Responsibility