It would seem so straightforward to say that love and hate are opposites – either you really like something or you really don’t. But there is so much more complexity to it. Easy though it might seem to believe, hate isn’t love’s opposite; selfishness is. And that is oh-so-painful to think about. There are times when I have thought, “Well, that wasn’t really love I was acting in, but it’s not like I was being hateful or nasty. I am not really a mean person.” True, but I am a selfish person. Everybody is selfish; it’s the nature of the flesh. Without God’s overcoming, victorious power, we would have to be resigned to spending our whole lives wrestling with it. But you see, Jesus’ death on the cross won the victory over selfishness. In fact, His death for us was the epitomy of selflessness – the very essence of true love. Selfishness can take so many forms – jealousy, greed, manipulation…..most bad things can be traced back to selfishness, just as most good things can be traced back to love.
Thinking about love and selfishness, I am reminded of a story called “The Lady or the Tiger?” In short, there was a princess who loved a man whom her cruel father believed to be unsuitable for her. The king set out to remedy the situation. He put the man in an arena crowded with spectators and told his daughter to choose one of the arena doors as the man’s “fate.” Behind one door was a ferocious, hungry tiger. Behind the other door was a beautiful lady whom the man would have to marry. This lady loved the man, just as the princess did. Thus, with that choice before the princess, and the man’s life in the balance, the story ends. I read this in my literature book as part of my homework. One of the thought questions I was supposed to answer asked me what I thought the princess would have chosen.
For me, it all comes down to her character (which the story tells little about): was she selfish or was she selfless? Would she allow her selfish jealousy or her love to govern her decision? And that question brought up another equally important question: if she chose to act in selfishness, was her “love” really love? It would make all the difference, and these were questions I could not answer about her. But I can answer it for myself. Each one of us can; and when we find our answers, we each have a choice to make: selfish or selfless?