By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./ Office of Marriage, Family & Life
With this column I will return to reflecting on Chapter 4 from Pope Francis’ letter on marriage and family “The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia)”. From my previous columns on this topic you may recall that Chapter 4 contains the Holy Father’s reflection on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which contains St. Paul’s reflection on Christian Love. We are up to, “it (love) is not arrogant or rude.” As I reflected on what Pope Francis wrote about this line of sacred scripture, my mind went back to my youth and I thought of a song (again – see previous columns) recorded by the Mill’s Brothers. They originally released the song in 1944 but I became aware of the Mill’s Brothers when, while a college student, I was the host of a “Big Band” radio show. The title of the song is “You Only Hurt the One You Love” and the opening line of the song starts with the title and goes on with, “… the one you shouldn’t hurt at all.” The song was recorded by many others including Peggy Lee, Ringo Star, Michael Buble’ and even Ryan Gosling sang it in a movie.
If you think about the premise of the song and apply it to marriage the lyrics do not paint a very “redemptive” view of love. If we always hurt the one we love, some may think that we just have to learn to live with the inevitable hurtful comment, look or action that a husband will do towards his wife and a wife will do to her husband. The song paints a picture that love will be paired with hurt. Another line from the song goes, “You always break, the kindest heart, with a hasty word you can’t recall.” Perhaps a number of readers are thinking to themselves, “Well, it’s true, at some point or another we will say something hurtful to a member of our family – something that we should not have said.” But St. Paul calls us to love as Jesus loves and to not accept the premise of the song. It is not inevitable that we will hurt the ones we love if we learn to love like Jesus loves us.
Pope Francis writes that love is “… to be gentle and thoughtful.” and that “Love abhors making others suffer.” He goes on to explain that interpersonal “courtesy … is not something that a Christian may accept or reject.” And he then quotes St. Thomas Aquinas: “Every human being is bound to live agreeably with those around him.” So being gentle and thoughtful with those around us is not something we can follow on some days and then stop on others. Christians are called to be kind and courteous to all people but yet the song may be stuck in our heads – “You only hurt the one you love.” Some people can be so nice to others they encounter in their daily life at work, in the parish or around the community but then can be rude to their spouse, their children or their parents. Yet it is not an option to be courteous to others and not courteous to members of our own families.
Why do we hurt our family members by the things we say, the looks we give, the behaviors we do? Some do so because they do not care for their own family but this is not the most common reason. What more often occurs is that we let our guard down with our family, we do not maintain our “best behavior” with them, because we trust that they will continue to accept us even though we hurt them. To be sure, many hurtful acts in a family are preceded by a variety of things, but in the end we are responsible for our thoughtless actions and we should not dismiss our discourteous behavior by saying, “Oh well, you always hurt the one you love.” We are called to love like Jesus loves – and Jesus will never hurt us. The God who is love, who created us out of love, who is the source of all genuine love, always loves us. And so to love like God in our families, the Holy Father teaches that we should never make others suffer. We should always be courteous, to live agreeably with those in our family, and to speak “…words of comfort, strength, consolation, and encouragement.”
Do not get into the habit of dismissing your discourteous behavior with your family by singing the Mills Brother’s song in your head. Strive to love as Christ loves us – strive to be saintly with sharing your love in your family. A tough task – yes, to be sure – but through prayer, the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and loving like Jesus loves we can re-write the lyrics of the song and sing; “You never hurt, the one you love, the one you’ll never hurt at all.”