Love and imperfection
Pope Francis, in the Joy of Love, helps us to see how love overcomes other people’s weaknesses and faults, as he says:
“Love coexists with imperfection. It bears all things and can hold its peace before the limitations of the loved one”
But we know in family life, living with other’s imperfections can sometimes be the most challenging thing we can do. How are we supposed to find the true joy of love, when others can’t even help with the simplest of tasks around the house?
For although family life has many moments of great tenderness and joy, it can also offer us some of our greatest personal challenges: for it is the ones who we love the most who are sometimes the ones who we find the most infuriating.
When living together as a family we can face daily frustrations where despite the reminders, nagging and pestering, we are constantly let down by others, and no matter how much we try to help them to change, they remain stubbornly… well, imperfect.
Pope Francis reminds us that in order to discover the joy of love we should try to see each person as an unfinished product, needing to grow, a work in progress. Especially in marriage, because if we are always criticising each other, this is a sign that we have not entered into marriage as a project to be worked on together with patience, understanding, tolerance and generosity.
For love opens our eyes and allows us to see the weaknesses and faults of others in a wider context, recognising that all failings are part of a bigger picture. The other person is much more than the sum of the little things that annoy me.
So, love does not have to be perfect for us to value it. The other person can neither play God nor serve all our needs. Which requires us to stop expecting from others that which can only be given by the love of God alone.
And for love to flourish, Pope Francis urges us to discover authentic dialogue with each other, which requires time, quality time. Time to listen to what others have to say, which requires an inner silence that makes it possible to listen to others without rushing in with a solution or opinion. Sometimes others simply need to be heard, to feel that someone has acknowledged their pain, their fear, their hopes and their dreams.
For when we see others through the eyes of love, which understands that we are all a complex mixture of light and shadows, we can then see that our love, even in its limitations and imperfections, is still a source of joy for the world today.