By Dr. Jim Sulliman
Others… the references made to the importance of loving and serving others are found throughout scripture.
John (15:12-13) tells us “This is my commandment: Love one anOTHER as I love you. Greater love no one has than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
We read in Hebrews (13:16) “And do not forget to do good and to share with OTHERS for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
While Peter (I Peter 4:10) states “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve OTHERS, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
But while all of us are created in the image of God which is to say the image of love, how exactly is love, this most important of all virtues, developed?
Some might say that it simply “happens.” Psychologist Dr. Alfred Aldler had this to say in the early 1900s:
“The mother represents the greatest example of love and fellowship which the child will ever have. Her task is to relate the growing child to herself psychologically, as he was formerly related to her physically. But she must also nourish the child’s growing consciousness with true and normal conceptions of society, of work and of love. In this way, she gradually transforms the child’s love for her and dependence upon her into a benevolent, confident, and responsible attitude towards society and the whole environment. This is the two-fold function of motherhood: to give the child the completest possible experience of human fellowship, and then to widen it into a life-attitude toward OTHERS.”
Not all mothers, however, are suited to do these two most important things. As a result, many people develop an attitude of “personal superiority” as opposed to love for others. If someone else does not step in and assume the mother’s role in regard to these essential tasks during their early years it can lead to divisiveness, destruction, and despair.
Most often, it is another female who makes the great sacrifice of caring for another’s child. Sometimes it is a grandmother, sometimes an aunt or another relative but almost never is it a male because we men are students when it comes to love…our teachers, with the exception of Jesus, are almost always women and we are life-long learners. Adler went on to say that as a last resort, sometimes it is a therapist who performs this function.
The very best friend I have ever had was told last year that she had weeks to live. She was my model for m”otherhood” for 26 years and no one will ever know the full impact she has had on this world. At a time in our history when more and more people are willfully embracing a self-first
philosophy, her whole entire life reflected just the opposite. She was the mother of five incredible adults, all of whom are deeply united to their Catholic faith, all of whom have families of their own, all of whom have connections to the helping professions, all of whom know the joy of serving their spouses, children, and others. All know love. It was a joy to watch them be surrounded by her love, leave the nest, and then begin teaching love to their own children and the importance of giving that gift to OTHERS.
Even when in great pain and discomfort, she told doctor after doctor, nurse after nurse, aide after aide that they were spending way too much time with her and that there were others who needed them even more than she did. How could people (and even animals) not have been drawn to her because of her love which was, of course, a reflection of God, for as John (1 John 4:8) tells us so succinctly “God is love.”
Indeed, it is in the most stressful of times that love, and our true nature, is revealed. We learn very little about ourselves and others during good times but volumes during the most difficult ones.
It is the mother of Jesus who never “abandons” him. While all but one of the apostles ran for their lives, it was Mary who was there with and for her son, regardless of personal danger, thinking first not of herself. Mary, who at this time of horror was caring for a young boy named John. It is Mary at the birth of Jesus… Mary at his death… Mary at his resurrection appearance.
Modeling is the best way to teach. Thank God He had a son and not a daughter because otherwise we might not have had known what love looks like in a male because it is females who have modeled love the best.
In my 50 years as a professional therapist, teacher, and researcher… mothers, like Mary and my beloved friend Paula, have done the best job of loving others. And they, like Jesus, have taught others how to love, how to live, and how to die…and how to LIVE. They have taught me well how important it is to love, serve, and forgive OTHERS, even to the point of giving up my life. It is up to me to make certain that their teaching was not in vain.
While we so often think and act like many things are “a matter of life and death,” we need mothers, teachers, models, and friends both past and present to show us the truth…when we give our lives to God and do everything we can to show God’s love to others, nothing is a matter of life and death…everything is a matter of death and life!
Submitted by James R. Sulliman, Ph.D. Individual, marriage, and family therapist in Abilene, TX. “Live life courageously”