In contrast to many models of loving
which seek permanence, stability, & security,
love might be better if we embrace personal freedom as the
What do we freely choose to do together?
I. WE CHOOSE TO
WE RENEW OUR COMMITMENT EVERY DAY.
LOVING FREELY MEANS AVOIDING PATTERNS.
IV. WE CHOOSE TO BE TOGETHER ONE DAY AT A TIME.
PLANNING FOR PERMANENCE STIFLES FREEDOM.
James Leonard Park
How strange it seems that love,
which should be the most free and voluntary of all human relationships,
so often becomes a means of
security and a source
Why does love so easily degenerate into patterns, habits, rights,
responsibilities, obligations, burdens, demands, & possessiveness?
Perhaps love turns into clinging dependence
when we are insecure within ourselves
—lonely, inadequate, needy, deficient at our deepest levels of being.
Maybe we become possessive when we cannot stand alone.
I. WE CHOOSE TO LOVE.
Ideally, our love should be a completely free
choice from both sides,
a voluntary commitment,
renewable as often as we please.
Romance obscures choice by talking of "falling in love",
as if love "just happens" to us without our will or consent
—Cupid's arrows let loose at random.
But if we have outgrown such romantic fantasies,
we accept responsibility
for creating the relationship between us.
Perhaps we notice prior hopes and sexual
but we regard emotional needs
and sex-appeal as
poor bases for love.
Rather, our love grows out of the persons we choose to be,
emerges from the sharing of
our Authentic projects-of-being
—what we are fundamentally trying to do with our
II. WE RENEW OUR
For us to love freely and creatively
means to renew our commitment and hence our relationship every day.
As we become more Authentic, we grow and change;
and our unique relationship will change along with us.
Our love is an active, evolving process;
if we cease to re-create our
love, it slips silently away.
If we see ourselves as "having a stable relationship",
we might be taking each
other for granted.
And especially if we are married, we might be assuming
that the institution of marriage will carry on for us
without any special effort on our part.
But love has no substance or momentum of its
Love is only whatever
relationship we are creating between us today.
If today we are not actively sharing our deepest selves,
our relationship has already begun to fade.
No special action is required; love disappears when we stop creating it.
Love does not keep going by
itself once we "get the ball rolling".
Our love is a unique creation of the two of
If we are becoming more Authentic, love does not arise
from biological urges overwhelming us
nor from cultural traditions possessing us
nor from supernatural powers using us as their playthings.
Both of us are free persons, continually re-inventing ourselves.
And in this phase of our lives, we are writing our stories together.
Each morning we must reaffirm
Our projects cannot re-start themselves.
We must bring them back to life—or let they die away with yesterday.
is one of these ever-fresh projects.
Today we must love in a new way if we are growing persons.
Yesterday can add little to what is happening between us today.
We might have pleasant memories, but memories alone are not
Sad would our relationship be if we had only beautiful memories.
III. LOVING FREELY MEANS
To the degree that we are creative, growing
our love is full of surprises
rather than governed by expectations.
If we find ourselves in the rut of customary activities,
then we know that freedom and flexibility have disappeared.
For instance, if we always share certain meals or always sleep together,
then the openness of our early love has been replaced by patterns,
which might become expectations,
which might in turn become obligations—or
Love may only be freely given,
not expected or demanded.
Demands yield not love
From the freest place in my being, I love you.
And I want you always to be completely free.
Do you love me today because you freely choose this relationship?
I do not want you to come to me because of my expectation
or because you feel the pressure of my demand, the burden of my need.
I want you, yes, but
I only want you if you freely
give yourself to me.
I will never possess you; you
will be forever
IV. WE CHOOSE TO BE TOGETHER
DAY AT A TIME.
Our relationship allows each of us to be whole
We are happy to be alone when one of us chooses to be alone.
We create times of meaningful sharing when we both want to be together.
We are not just extensions of each other,
not two incomplete parts of a larger whole.
We are both complete within our skins—two self-creating persons.
And yet, without needing anything, we freely choose to love each other!
Loving in freedom, we create our relationship
one day at a time.
We do not project our love into the future as a permanent relationship.
We might know and love each other for the rest of our lives,
but ours will never be a fixed, unchangeable relationship.
If we are free persons, continually growing and changing,
no single relationship between us will last a life-time,
but we might have a series
of different relationships with each other,
which, looking back,
might have embraced many years of our lives.
V. PLANNING FOR PERMANENCE
Permanence, however, looks forward and makes
which might prevent us from growing and evolving as we otherwise would.
But if we love in full freedom, then at every turning point,
each of us must decide whether to renew our relationship
or to let it become one of the good memories of the past.
Hoping for permanence stifles
Freely we create our love; and freely we may
end our relationship.
While our love remains lively and meaningful, we appreciate it.
But when it ceases to engender delight, to make us both happy,
we must be willing to change it, perhaps even to leave without guilt.
Being sensitive to such changes in love—and
is one way to prevent the catastrophic collapse of love
so common in our culture, which presents only two alternatives:
total intimacy or total estrangement: either you love me or you don't.
But there is an amazing range of flexibility and innovation
possible between all-embracing 'love' and total alienation.
If we are free and imaginative in other areas of our lives,
we can be creative in our loving relationships as
May 4, 2007; revised 5-16-2009; 2-27-2010; 11-13-2010; 12-3-2011;
James Park is an existential
with a deep interest in the dynamics
The third chapter of his most popular
of Loving: How Authenticity Transforms Relationships—
is called "Loving in Freedom: Choice and Flexibility instead of
Security and Obligation".
The cyber-sermon above was adapted from the opening pages of this
Much more information about James Park
is available on his home page:
Existential Philosopher's Museum:
James Park welcomes your comments and questions.
Send your thoughts to him by e-mail: PARKx032@TC.UMN.EDU
information about the latest edition
Ways of Loving
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Ways of Loving: How Authenticity Transforms Relationships
Here are a few other cyber-sermons
is a Hoax!
Emotional Programming to 'Fall in Love'
Cause & Prevention
The Future of
Love and Marriage
Go to other
cyber-sermons by James Park,
organized into 10 subject-areas.
Go to Internet
for Campus Ministry
Go to the UNITARIAN