A famous writer named Og Mandino once penned the famous words, "Love without any thought of reward, and your life will never be the same again." As I have recently pondered on these words due to the words of a wise friend, I have recalled that my life has been much happier when I loved purely for the joy of it. Indeed, when recalling the most prominent teachings of the Savior and His apostles concerning charity, a few insights have come to my mind regarding this virtue that I desire to share. Bear in mind that although I express my opinions, nobody need accept them as gospel truth. I fully and firmly believe them to be such, because of scriptural support-both in the standard works and in the words of modern prophets and apostles. Moving forward then, let's explore the relationships between SSA, charity, and our personal expectations as disciples of Christ and/or as decent human beings.
As I have thought about that quote, another from Christ came into my mind from the scriptures. In Luke 6:31-35, we read, "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." In this Christ clearly stated that not the Saints, but rather the sinners decide to love, do good to, and lend to those that do the same for them. But as His converted children, we love, do good, and lend to everyone, hoping for nothing again. Wow. What a concept-to give selflessly without any thought of reward, as our first quote stated. But it is also interesting to note that in so doing, we shall have blessings of a great reward and of being converted to Christ. When Christ prophesied that "because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold", I am certain He was partially including preset expectations in relationships- which He knew would be everywhere.
When I speak of "preset expectations", I define those not as moral standards or personality traits one searches for in another, whether in a pursuit of romance or friendship or any other association. Rather, I say that such preset expectations are the laundry list, however small or big, of actions a person must fulfill in your eyes to meet the qualifications of being a friend in any degree, whether that is an okay, decent, good, or best friend. The length of the list you have or the degree of friendship you apply it to is irrelevant, as is the type of psychological relationship. What is relevant are those "qualifications" a person must meet to enjoy your friendship, support, or other social interactions. Now, of course, once we start hitting lines of morality, religion, etc. then I understand if you deny someone your time because of those reasons. For example, I do not spend my time in the company of people who go to the bar, the casino, and so forth. But if I deny them my presence in part or entirely because of that list I've got, then this is when I must step back and re-evaluate my position as a disciple of Christ or even if I am a nonbeliever, as a decent human being with a conscience.
Now, what does this have anything to do with SSA? Among the SSA community, I have often observed a pattern of behavior where people (including myself) have stated a need for time or other forms of love from others, without giving any thought to what they can do to love others as well. Or, on a better level, they state what someone can do for them and then add in what they hope to do for the other person. Is that the order in which charity proceeds, though? Paul both stated that charity "seeketh not her own" (1st Corinthians 13:5) and that "...he which soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he that soweth bountifully shall also reap bountifully." (2nd Corinthians 9:6) This means that when I have charity, I do not seek a reward or do it with even the thought of it in mind. In addition, when Paul wrote that the one who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully, he wrote it in that order for a reason. The spirit of giving and gratitude freely and abundantly flows outward to those around it; the spirit of selfishness and pride hoards everything and keeps it inside. Thus, if one reaps before he or she sows, it demonstrates not only an attitude of wanting something for nothing, but also of entitlement and of prideful self-centeredness. On the other hand, the true disciple of Christ and/or decent individual understands that selfless giving for the joy of it- without expectation or the resultant fruit of entitlement-is essential to true charity. The genuine love of God does not seek after blessings first. It seeks to give those blessings and then welcome any that come, while being "kind to the unthankful and the evil", even as He is. I think it wise to remember the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell concerning love and reciprocity, when it comes to SSA: "And if we love and there is no reciprocity for our love, we worship him who taught us and showed us love that is unconditional, for we must love even when there is no reciprocity." Love is unconditional-simple.
Individuals who deal with SSA also seem to get caught up in melodrama and emotional upheavals concerning what other SSA individuals have done in their interactions with them. That is not the way, I do not think. When we deal with SSA, it should be with an attitude of cultivating the pure love of Christ, because we are each defined by our divine identity under Him. Each of us is a spirit child of our Heavenly Father, created in His image and blessed with the ability to follow after His Son using our agency. And each of us, in the Church, has taken upon us the name of Christ and covenanted to "mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in..." (Mosiah 18:6). That is best accomplished in a spirit of humility, gratitude for what we receive, and willingness to only love for the joy of it, so that others may feel our spirits radiating the pure love of Jesus Christ. My personal quote on all this is to love for the joy of it, and your life will never be the same again. Love will abound, friends will come, your temporal life will flourish, and your spiritual life will be blessed. I love all of you. Thank you for reading.