Two Types of Love

I’ve been thinking, lately, about some of the ways God loves us. There are many ways He loves us, but I’ve primarily been meditating on what Erich Fromm calls “mother love” and “father love.” Either gender can display mother love or father love and we need both to develop and mature.

Mother love is unconditional, Father love is conditional. Mother love says “you are bone of my bone and I will love you no matter what.” Father loves says “you must earn my love and respect.” Mother love provides us with a secure base and Father love calls us to greater heights of character.

At first blush, Mother love seems superior. It is warm, gentle and caring. It coos and coddles and makes us feel invincible. This is the love of God that we hear most about in church. It comforts us and lets us know that nothing can separate us from the love God has for us. Mother love tells us a great deal about the “mother” and very little about the “child.” The child might be a rotten little brat, but the mother loves them anyway because she is gracious, kind, merciful and compassionate.

But Father love, conditional love, is also invaluable in the development of a child. Father love sets up a standard that must be achieved before love is offered. This is quite reminiscent of the Old Testament. Father love says “you are my child and I expect this sort of behavior from you.” The Father sets the bar of righteousness that the children are then expected to live up to. Though it may initially seem harsh, acquiring Father love is one of the most satisfying experiences in life for it bestows on the child identity purpose and value. No longer is the child loved simply because their mother is a grand old lady. They are now loved because they are worth something, they have value, something to offer. Humans crave this sort of affection and will go to great lengths to acquire it, which is precisely the point. Humans can achieve seemingly impossible standards of morality, righteousness or physical skill in the effort to win love. Father love calls out the best in the child.

There is much more to say, but this seems a sufficient introduction to a topic I’m sure I will write more about. Thanks for reading.

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