God's Value System

Chapter 5: Sacrificial love as a value system


Conflict in relationship can be removed by agreement on values, but something more is required. We must not only agree on common values; we must also choose to live by a value system that contributes positively to relationship. The value system that produces the strongest relationships is one based on sacrificial love for others.

By seeking to serve those I love, my relationships regain a focus on how I am connected to others rather than focusing only on how I might fulfill my individual desires. The whole concept of relationship revolves around joining people together rather than separating them. Instead of focusing on what I want, I must consider the needs of the other person.

Sacrificial love demands my willingness to give up one of my own desires in order to fulfill a desire of the other person. If you truly love someone, and want her to know and feel it, you need to do what she values. As she does your values to you, you also will feel loved. Instead of two people each trying to make themselves happy regardless of the effect it has on others, they will find a two-fold happiness. First, they will experience the happiness brought into their lives by the other person loving them. Second, they will experience an additional happiness because of how they are making another person happy.

Sacrificial love for the benefit of others is also the best value system for producing and sustaining relationship because it has conflict reduction and resolution built-in. If two people are both trying to please the other rather than only pleasing one's self, it removes conflict. Desires that we might selfishly be attempting to fulfill in spite of their effect on the other person are eliminated. If I consider the effect my words and actions will have, I will be careful not to inflict pain or injury on anyone else. Rather than harming others, I will say and do things to make their lives better.

Sacrificial love cannot be artificial. You cannot merely “give in” to the desire of the other person. It must be the true value of your heart to serve. You must desire to please the other and build the relationship more than always having your own way. If it is merely an act, you will become frustrated when you are not served as you desire. Sacrificial love done only for what you will receive in return is not sacrificial love at all. That is why it only works in relationships with both participants seeking this same amazing value system.

Sacrificial love for the benefit of others must become the foundation of your value system. It does not necessarily eliminate your other interests or desires, unless they are selfish and contrary to love. But used as your most basic moral guide it will govern your other values and desires. Instead of considering of all the things you should or should not do, you only need to think of whether or not your actions and desires agree or conflict with sacrificial love. If what you desire conflicts with sacrificial love, you can be certain that it will also negatively affect your relationships.

It is like having the perfect ability to evaluate all aspects of relationship with one simple tool. However, you must be vigilant in examining your values and desires to see if they correspond with sacrificial love. If they do, and your partner in relationship is also being motivated by sacrificial love, then your relationship will flourish.

For example, let us consider actions that many people consider to be wrong. Murder, lying, and stealing are wrong because they are not sacrificial. However, instead of a list of negative rules, we can be guided by one positive value. Sacrificial love promotes doing good to others rather than merely avoiding doing harm to them. Anything that harms our relationships likely flows from some value that is opposed to sacrificial love.

This kind of relationship requires both parties to be committed to sacrificial love for the other. Without that commitment, the sacrificial lover will be exploited. Exploitation always destroys relationship, whereas sacrificial love enhances it. Exploitation is the opposite of sacrificial love. If we seek to fulfill our desires by using other people, we will hurt them and destroy our relationships. Whenever we force or manipulate others to serve us, we are exploiting them. People often use anger, threats, sulking, or crying as weapons when they cannot use physical force.

Therefore, it is crucially important that both people in a relationship be committed to sacrificially loving and forgiving each other when they are offended. Any attempt to hold on to a grudge will damage a relationship as much as selfishly having others serve you. This sacrificial love is tied to forgiveness in that it is willing not to punish the other person for what he has done. Instead of revenge, it prefers to restore relationship and to have the other person change his values. Sacrificial love is tied to repentance in that it is willing to give up a selfish desire in order to benefit the other person.

The greatest source of happiness we can have in life is relational. Although we can find pleasure in bodily appetites and in a personal kingdom, nothing fulfills us like having others truly love us. Therefore, it makes sense to pursue sacrificial love in our relationships so that we, along with those we love, can find deepest personal fulfillment.

Continue reading:
Chapter 6: Communicating what you value