I've finally internalized a truth that I've known intellectually for years: the vast majority of online arguments are a waste of time. The parties involved aren't looking to determine the truth and, if necessary, adjust their views accordingly, they're looking to win over the other party. This is true of arguments generally but even more so on the internet where the fact of having an audience makes people even less willing to back down. So I don't waste as much time arguing as I used to. Nowadays when I feel compelled to chime in on something or critique someone else's chiming in on something, I typically do so and then ignore subsequent responses. I know the subsequent responders are often mocking me in my absence, thinking I'm a coward or whatever. Maybe this behavior qualifies me as a troll of sorts, but the thing is I spoke up on something I felt was important, I said what I needed to say and now I'm done. I'm not going to change my view and the other person or people aren't going to change their view, so why waste both our time pretending that's a possibility?
In one such recent instance, people were asserting that same-sex romantic love is functionally equivalent in all respects to opposite-sex romantic love. No comment from me. I wouldn't know, as I've never been in love with a man, but I tend to assume it's more or less the same experience. It always sounds ridiculous to me when straight Latter-day Saints try to delegitimize the reality of same-sex attraction by pretending it amounts to nothing more than lust and desire for pleasure. I believe, however, that using faulty logic or false premises to support an accurate conclusion is still wrong, so I felt compelled to object to someone's statement that "Love can never be wrong." And they didn't like that at all so I dropped the subject pretty quickly, but this is my blog and now I'm going to explain why I think that's nonsense.
First, because English is the stupidest language in the world, we must define the term. "Love" can mean different things and it's easy to conflate them inadvertently or otherwise. There is a very broad, selfless love for all of humankind that followers of Christ are expected to inculcate, and if this is what we mean by "love" then I would agree that it can never be wrong, assuming it's properly understood and framed within proper boundaries. Loving a terrible person is a good thing; letting a terrible person screw you over because you love them is not. I would say this is the only emotion that's "good" in all circumstances. Others, including romantic love, are context-specific. And romantic love, hereafter referred to for simplicity's sake as "love" because English is the stupidest language in the world, is an emotion. It is created by chemicals in the brain like any other emotion. It is not magic. Yet this more mature and accurate understanding should in no way cheapen or deligitimize love. God designed us to live in a physical world dominated by physical laws for a reason. If God is embodied, as Latter-day Saints believe, then I presume even His divine infinite matchless love must have some chemical basis.
These people I argued with appeared to have a sense that love is somehow above and apart from other emotions by virtue of how beautiful and sacred it is, and this informs their conviction that it can never be wrong, but to me this just looks like circular logic. Love can't be bad because love is good. This circular logic then informs their response to my counterexample of cheating on one's spouse. Adultery is bad; therefore true love can't be a part of it because love is good. Admittedly I should have elaborated more. I wasn't talking about sudden, impulsive, lust-driven adultery like King David, I was talking about the instances where one falls out of love with one's spouse and in love with someone else, like, say, an old friend from high school that one looks up on Facebook and decides to share all one's marital problems with. Everyone knows this sort of thing happens. Though never married myself, I was in love with a married woman for a longer period of time than I'd care to admit. I knew that attempting to act on this love would be wrong regardless of how sincere and heartfelt the emotion.
Another example that comes to mind now is abusive relationships where the abused party loves their abuser. I would say that in an overwhelming majority of cases this love is objectively negative. Again, the abused should still have a broad Christlike love for the abuser and everyone else, but romantic love is something else entirely. The abuser does not deserve such love and should not be given such love. The abused should be kicking them to the curb with the other garbage ASAP. But many of us know people, mostly women, sometimes men, who love their abusive partners and stay with their abusive partners because they love them, and we recognize that this is a very difficult and unhealthy situation for them to be in. Everyone on the outside can see it. They themselves probably see it intellectually, but the emotions they've cultivated toward this person make it very difficult to do the right thing for their own health. Just because it's unhealthy doesn't mean it isn't really love. Unless, you know, circular logic.
Yes, by the way, romantic love should be earned. Being selfless and putting your partner's needs ahead of yours is all well and good, but if they can't be bothered to do jack for you in return then why would you even want to be with them? Romantic love, unlike Christlike love, should be predicated on actual reasons, some universal and some based on personal preferences, not unreasonable reasons but reasons nonetheless. This is also what I love about the love of a dog. You take care of a dog and it loves you. It doesn't expect you to be perfect, it doesn't hold you to an unfair standard, but it does require something of you to earn its love and if you meet this requirement you actually have a reason to feel good about the fact that you are now loved and actually deserve it. I miss my dog. If this post is as garbage as I think it is, I apologize, but the thing is I've gotten about six hours of sleep in the last three days.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.