One of the chief hallmarks of the objective aspect of love is the gift of self. John Paul II teaches that what makes betrothed (married) love different from all other forms of love such as attraction, desire, and friendship is that two people give themselves to each other. They are not just attracted to each other, and they do not simply desire what is good for each other. In betrothed love, each person surrenders himself entirely to the other.
Yet the very idea of self-giving love raises some important questions: How can one person give himself to another? What does this mean? After all, each human person is utterly unique.
Each person has his own mind and his own free will. In the end, no one else can think for me. No one else can choose for me. Each person is his own master and is not able to be given over to another. So in what sense can one person give himself to his beloved?
While on the natural and physical level it is impossible, in the order of love a person can do so by choosing to limit his freedom and uniting his will to the one he loves. In other words, because of his love, a person may actually desire to give up his own free will and bind it to the other person. Love makes the person want to do just that—surrender itself to another, to the one it loves.
The Freedom to Love
In self-giving love, men and women recognize in a profound way that their life is not their own. They have surrendered their will to their beloved. Their own plans, dreams, and preferences are not completely abandoned, but they are now put in a new perspective. They are subordinated to the good of the spouse and any children that may flow from their marriage. How they spend time and money and how they order their lives are no longer a matter of private choice. The marriage and the family become the primary reference points for everything they do.
This is the beauty of self-giving love: Men and women, driven by love, freely choose to give up their autonomy, to limit their freedom, by committing themselves to the good of the spouse. Love is so powerful that it impels them to want to surrender their will to their beloved in this profound way.
In Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love, Edward Sri unpacks the contents of Pope John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility, making it accessible to every reader. He emphasizes the down-to-earth nature of Love and Responsibility, giving readers actionable advice on issues such as:• How to determine if a relationship is one of authentic love or is doomed to failure • The problem of pornography • The meaning of friendship • How to achieve greater intimacy in marriage