One touching simile described by Jeanie Burton in this sermon is that of a child coming into her father's room and climbing onto his lap. When the father asked the child what he could do for her, the child merely says, nothing, I just wanted to feel close to you, father. This is exactly what one will feel for God at this stage of loving Him. This shows one's ability to get out of one's own self in order to love God just for what He is. (Love Grows Up)
The fourth stage of love as described by Bernard in his 'On Loving God' is that of love of one's self for the sake of God. This is an extremely surprising and radical viewpoint, and the fact that a theologian discovered it in the twelfth century is in itself quite amazing. Jeanie Burton, the preacher of this sermon, stated that this was a truth that man would be able to discover, as he grew older and gained in maturity and understanding. The most important aspect of this type of mature love is the fact that one would be able to love oneself not out of neediness or out of any other reason but out of a simple understanding of God's love that includes all fellow human beings, and also oneself. When one was to contemplate on these issues: who is the person whom we generally find the most difficult to love and also to accept, and who is the person whom we find extremely tough to embrace and accept, the answer would most definitely be 'Me'.
When one cannot accept oneself with all the defects and faults that are inherent within one, then one would always work towards ways and means in which to make up for such failures. This would lead to an insistence on one's own way in going about things, since this is the only way that one's own self-worth can be proven. But, if one were to love oneself for the sake of God, one would be able to see everything from the perspective and viewpoint of God. This would automatically mean that one would be able to become extremely close and linked with God in such a way that the hunger that is present in all human hearts would be well satisfied. This also means that the individual becomes so very free from the boundaries of human limits that one would be able to 'turn the other cheek' or 'bless those who persecute' without the feeling of being taken advantage of. (Love Grows Up)
Therefore, the most important thing that one can do is to immerse oneself in God so completely that one would be able to feel the love of God everyday, though every single activity, and through every single thought. This is the fourth stage of the love of God as explained by Bernard, and this means that when one reaches this stage, one would be a total believer of God and all His goodness. (Love Grows Up) Erich Fromm in his 'Art of Loving' also talks about loving God, but in a manner that is different from Bernard's. When he wrote the book in the early 1950's, he was able to talk directly to a large audience, and influence them greatly. However, even though this book was in fact a bestseller, Erich Fromm remained, for the most part unrecognized and unappreciated. (The two voices of Erich Fromm, the Prophetic and the Analytic)
Born in the year 1900 in Germany, Erich Fromm was the son of a businessman and a depressed mother. His childhood was an unhappy one, and his family was rooted in the orthodox traditions of Jews. The sensitive Erich became what he called an 'atheistic mystic' in his later years, when he started to form opinions of his own, based on the principles of psychoanalysis. (Erich Fromm, 1900 to 1980) There occurred two main events in his life that set him upon his chosen path of mysticism. One was the incident of a young girl who was always seen with her aged father. One day the young Erich heard the news that the old man had died, and the girl committed suicide immediately thereafter, and stipulated in her will that she be buried along with her father, Erich was 12 years old at the time, and he was completely shocked and asked himself, 'why' this had to happen. This led him to search for answers, which he later found in the works of Freud. The second incident was when Erich was a young 14 years old, which was when the First World War happened.
Erich Fromm saw for himself the extremes to which nationalism could possibly reach. He could not comprehend the irrationality of War, and he tried to arrive at conclusions of his own through reading the works of Karl Marx. The young Erich Fromm trained to be a psychotherapist, and formulated quite a few theories in the process of training and afterwards. Almost all his theories are reportedly a blend of the theories of Freud and of Karl Marx. While it is a well-known fact that Freud felt that it was biology that determined the innate character of man, Karl Marx defined man as a being that was shaped by the society in which he lived and by the economic system that was being followed in his place at that time. Erich Fromm, however, added to these existing theories one of his own formulation, which was that the very essential central characteristic of man was his 'freedom'. (Erich Fromm, 1900 to 1980)
In his book 'The Art of Loving', Erich Fromm asks, is love an art or is it just a pleasant sensation? If love were an art it requires a great deal of knowledge and effort, if, however, love were a mere sensation, then it would require a twist of chance to feel it, and if one were lucky, to fall into it. Erich Fromm seems to believe more in the fact that love may be an art rather than on love being the chance happening or a trap into which numerous people find themselves falling. This does not necessarily mean that most people do not believe that love is important in their busy lives; the truth is that most people are starved for love, which is why they spend plenty of their time in watching movies and reading books about love. (Is Love an Art?)
In general, most people feel that the main problem in love is that of 'being loved' more than of 'loving', which judges one's capacity to love. Therefore, the average individual in trying to find ways and means in which to love and be lovable in turn spends a lot of time and energy in this exercise. One well-chosen path is to be as successful and as rich and powerful as the limits of one's social standing permits. Another path, which is most often used by women rather than by men, is to make oneself very attractive and appealing, in the physical sense, by dressing well, and grooming oneself perfectly. Another method, which is used by both the sexes, is to develop excellent manners and habits so that they may be considered to be attractive or 'lovable'. It can be noticed that most of these methods of making oneself lovable are the same, as those methods that are used by those persons who want to be successful in life and achieve great things.
Therefore, the fact is that most people consider that in order to be successful in life, one has to possess a mixture of sex appeal as well as popularity. Some people seem to assume that there is nothing to be learnt about love as such, which is a wrong notion. This is because they think of love as being an object, and not a 'faculty'. These people think that loving is easy, but finding a person to love is tough. This sort of attitude may have developed over the years because of several root causes, one of them being the freedom of choice of a love object. This led to the importance of the 'object' gaining precedence over the 'function'. This attitude is closely related to the mercenary feelings that individuals have embedded in them today. 'Attractive' means nicely packaged and appealing, in terms of buying a commodity, and this same theory is applied to human relationships too. The market value of a girl or a boy goes down or comes up according to the total packaging in which he is presented to the world, and it is this market oriented factor that prevails in relationships between the sexes today, according to Erich Fromm. This theory on 'Love' is quite different from that of Bernard, who talked about loving…