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Back to 14_12_2017_OPINION_EyP_Gerardo Castillo Ceballos

Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

What do we call love

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:42:00 +0000 Published in The Confidential

One of the most repeated words throughout history is the word "love" referring, above all, to the male-female relationship. From much use, it has gone, at times, to abuse, acquiring spurious meanings.

Today, people tend to call "love" a weekend "flirtation"; a relationship that arose spontaneously because of a "crush"; a state of simple infatuation; "free love," which rejects commitment.

Some young women nowadays are afraid to start a relationship because, according to them, all guys are looking for the same thing: "I've been so disappointed that if someone says to me: 'I love you', I ask: 'What for?

In the love of infatuation there is a mutual fabulation: one loves someone who is not entirely real; one sees him or her not as he or she is, but as one wants him or her to be. It is an egocentric love in which the rational and voluntary plane is hardly present. Therefore, it is not enough to get married.

Journalist Elena Pita interviewed writer Mercedes Salisachs:

"- In The Cries of Silence you ask yourself if love is not a farce, is it, I ask you now?

I distinguish between love, which is submission, and infatuation, which is pure selfishness: one seeks a wonderful self-image.

-Is it or is it not a sham?

- Love, no; infatuation, yes, it is a delusion that makes us very "happy", and therefore cannot last, not more than about five years, and this does not fail."

When we ask what love is, we expect to be told something more than the exercise of an appetence linked to the sensitive knowledge (I like it, I feel like it). Sensible wanting is on a lower plane than rational wanting. But what happens when one loves a person (spiritual reality) only on the basis of a sensitive knowledge ?. It happens that one loves him only in what is useful and pleasurable, since these are the only aspects that the senses grasp.

A loving cohabitation between a man and a woman based on one of these fallacious loves usually has very high expectations, but a near expiration date. When the spell is broken there is only disappointment and frustration. Fragment of a letter:

"Now I just have to clarify that you were not the love of my life; you were only love at the time. Sorry for giving me such a degree scroll , especially so fake."

Love is a movement of the will toward the good. The root of this movement is the value of the beloved, which presents itself as an attractive reality.


Loving union is not reduced to affective union (the same feeling); it is also union in being. The paradigmatic model is the marital union. This union can be seen in some verses by Ángel González:

"I have become pulseless and breathless/separated from you./When I breathe,/the air turns to me in a sigh/.

and the heart in dust, of despondency."

What is proper to marriage is the love of dilection, which proceeds not from a passion, but from a voluntary decision to love based on reflection.


Love is not in the "I" nor in the "you", but in the "we". Love is not an "I" with me, but with you, to make a "we". Love is not individual, but interpersonal: it is a matter of two; it is a shared reality that is composed of loving and being loved.

"To love is not to look at each other, it is to look together in the same direction." (Antoine De Saint-Exupéry)

Pieper affirms that to love is approve: to give as good, to call something or someone good. Love is complacency in the existence of the beloved: "it is good that you exist". But love is not limited to affirming the beloved in what he or she currently is; it aspires, moreover, to affirm him or her in what he or she can and should become. It can be expressed thus: How good it is that you are what you ought to be! It is the love of benevolence. Some verses of Pablo Neruda express it in this way:

 "For my heart your chest is enough,/For your freedom my wings are enough/.From my mouth it will reach to the sky/.

What was asleep upon your soul."

To love is to want the good for the other (Aristotle). It takes the form of helping him/her to be "more other". This class of love, besides making the beloved happy, makes him/her more valuable. It often serves to detect and cultivate qualities that were barely sketched in the beloved and that even he himself was unaware of; qualities that remained in a potential state, waiting for someone to help him activate them.