St. John Paul II’s “Love & Responsibility” is such a profound work; it laid the groundwork for what would become a series of talks we know as Theology of the Body. A basic principle that we can take away from his work is that love must be the foundation upon which relationships are built. Love, by its very nature is the gift of oneself for the good of another. Love is two people seeking out a virtuous life, together. St. JPII also makes it clear that love treats people as “ends” and not “means to an end”. The individualistic nature of western culture has shifted the focus from our fellowman towards what we can do to look out for our own best interests. Our goals and aspirations for this life have become increasingly self-centered with a lessening regard for the well-being of others. It would also appear that being immune to such ideology is easier said than done.
The type of friendship that many young people (and people of all ages) find themselves in is what Aristotle labels as the “friendship of utility”. It is a relationship, based largely upon the mutual benefit or “use” that one or both friends may derive from a relationship. Because relationships based on use exist, opportunism has managed to creep its way into many relationships, even into the bonds shared among people of the Christian faith. For example, a common form of opportunism can occur when friends are attempting to make plans with one another. When attempting to receive an affirmative response after the initial invitation, our hopes are usually not very high. Opportunism has wiped away the necessity to commit. Because let’s be honest… when something better comes along, we do not want to be tied down. Many of us, myself included, may have been guilty of this mindset at least once (if not more) in our relationships with others.
Opportunism in friendship, when it has become acceptable, can be an extremely difficult cycle to break. Especially, when such behavior is considered the norm it may seem irrational to protest against it. In a culture where we use our phones and tablets to disengage from intimate or difficult conversations, taking the time to challenge opportunism will seem like a futile undertaking at first. Seeking to develop love and responsibility towards one another in a friendship where neither currently exists doesn’t come with an instruction manual. However, if opportunism has infiltrated a relationship worth keeping, it will be worth the effort.
Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II’s ‘Love and Responsibility’ (Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, 2007) by Dr. Edward Sri
Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla
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