Limitless love. It’s been six months since we focused on this theme at Steubenville 2015. Are your actions demonstrating that the limitless love of God is the most important thing in your life? Or, rather, is your life reflecting that limited love of the world? Here are three ways to tell if your focus is more on seeking worldly love instead of God’s love.
1. You’re Addicted to Likes, Retweets, and Comments
How frequently did you pull out your cell phone to check for notifications from Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook while you were hanging out with your friends? When something great happened, did you automatically think about how great the photo will look on Instagram or how to hashtag your Tweet to get the most likes? Do you feel disappointed when your Tweet or photo goes unliked by your friends?
We’ve probably all done these things at one time or another. The desire to be noticed and validated on social media can sneak up on you. We want to know what others think about us and we want to be loved by others. It’s an easy way to feel happy quickly – but we know that good feeling is fleeting. Indeed, it can truly become an addiction, causing your brain to crave the attention from social media.
The danger is that the “love” with which you’re filling up on by seeking affirmation on social media is not real love. The “love” found on social media is quick to disappear and is based on the whimsy of current trends, not on what is authentically true, good, and beautiful. Trying to be satisfied by this social media “love” is like trying to run a marathon after eating only cotton candy; it may taste good in the moment and give you a sudden sugar high, but it can’t sustain you to run the race to the finish.
In comparison, limitless love is what our hearts were made for because God made our hearts to be able to give love so much greater than the “love” found on social media. Limitless love is what we’re truly seeking.
2. You’re Too Hard on Yourself
We can become overly concerned about trying to be perfect. Maybe you stress yourself out trying to make straight A’s in your honors classes or maybe you put pressure on yourself to be the best midfielder on your soccer team. Don’t get me wrong: striving to do the best that you are able to is a good thing. But when that becomes the defining purpose of our lives, something is off balance.
In our industrial and efficiency-minded world, we think of perfection as being autonomous. When we don’t have to rely on others for help, that’s when we’re perfect. But that’s really not who we are – and truly never will be for only God is wholly autonomous. We were made to depend on God for he’s the one who sustains our life. To think that our accomplishments are just our own is absurd. We need the help of others – parents, teachers, friends, mentors – to reach those achievements.
Authentic love draws us out of ourselves to focus more on others, to appreciate that we truly need each other for our basic survival and for our happiness. Authentic love does not isolate us; rather, it connects us to others.
It can be easy for perfectionism to bleed over into our spiritual life too. We think that we can only approach God once we get our lives straightened out or that our spiritual lives must be perfect.
Wrong! Alone our spiritual lives will never be perfect. Face it: we all sin. We can never fix that tie with God on our own. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that God’s grace can reach into our lives and mend those wounds.
God knows that we are not perfect and he sees us in our weakness. Despite that knowledge, he still loves us. What’s important is that, when we fail, we ask for the courage to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our focus should not be on our imperfections but, rather, on God’s limitless and perfect love for us.
3. You Don’t Actively Seek Authentic Love
Leah Darrow pointed out at Steubenville that the crucifix is the best image we have of limitless love. But what does that mean?
There is a priest I know who, whenever someone complained about being hungry or tired, he would quip in reply, “Well, don’t you think Jesus would have liked something to eat or to take a nap when he was hanging on the cross?” His retort was likely said partially in jest and he did not mean that we should neglect taking care of our bodies; rather, I think he was trying to make us more aware of the truth that Jesus was willing to give up absolutely everything for our benefit. Jesus showed his love for us by holding nothing back.
We are called to be like Christ and imitate the way he loved authentically. This requires that we suffer and make sacrifices out of love for others. Limitless, authentic love is not deterred by suffering; rather there is joy in that self-gift. It genuinely desires what is eternal good for the other.
These sacrifices do not need to be grandiose; it can be something as simple as not saying something mean back to a sibling who is irritating you or doing a favor for someone at school. So are you willing to feel a little uncomfortable or to give up your desires to be like Jesus? Or will you run away?