Recently, I experienced all the joy of being attacked by a pit-bull and the subsequent delight of recovering from a significant dog bite. The whole experience got me thinking about the modern idea of “love” vis-a-vis an older idea of love. Allow me to explain.
A couple of days after the event I was contacted by the area Animal Control people who informed me that the dog would not be put down. Initially, I was good with that since I know the animal in question is a pet to some young children who doubtlessly love the animal. Having been a child once (it’s true… really) and having loved my own pets when a child I know that I would not have wanted my pet put down upon an incident that my parents told me was “not typical for the dog.” (Something I was told immediately after the incident by the owners while I sat dazed on the road.)
This is the love of seen consequences. I have compassion for the children (no, I don’t have any compassion for the criminal dog) and out of that compassion, I don’t want to see their feelings hurt.
However, this could also be called hatred in terms of unseen consequences of my agreeing to a lenient approach with the animal in question. The neighborhood that I live in, and where this happened is teeming with children. My agreement for lenient treatment for this animal, while putatively loving to its owners (the seen consequence) is potentially hateful to the next child or person who is attacked and bitten by the dog. My leniency has the consequence of endangering some unseen future person who could share my fate since I was so full of compassion for the children for whom the dog was a pet. I’ve had compassion for the children at the expense of showing a lack of compassion for some future child or person. If somebody else is bitten by this creature, you can be sure I am going to be kicking myself for being so “nice.” This thought has grown exponentially in my musings when I learned the data showing that nearly two-thirds of all dog-bite fatalities come from pit-bulls and this in spite of their only comprising six percent of America’s dog population.
Now, enlarge this idea on a grander scale and see the impact of this. For years we practiced a love wherein we thought about the unseen consequences. For example, in our social order and culture, for years if a young woman was pregnant out of wedlock, she would disappear from school and perhaps be sent to some relative who lived away from the community in question. Help could still be expected but it would help via the back door and not the front door. We look back on that now and think about how unloving that action was and we do so because we have forgotten the love that was being shown to other young ladies who were not pregnant and who may be less likely to engage in the behavior that resulted in the social ostracism of one of their friends. Like my action with the pit-bull which bit me, we are “loving” according to seen consequences and not loving according to unseen consequences.
Today, we don’t do anything to communicate such an action as a taboo because to do so would not be “loving,” just as my not wanting to put the dog that bit me down was loving to one party but unloving to some potential future person.
Love is seldom a zero-sum game. When we offer some version of love to one person we see we very often deprive love to some person who is unseen and not being taken into consideration. When we offer “love” by not visiting capital crimes with capital punishment we show “love” to the criminal but we withhold our love to God and the victim’s family. When we offer “love” to the illegal alien by the spending of our non-infinite nation’s resources we are with-holding our love to the citizen. And when I show love to the children of the pit-bull, I may well be showing a lack of love to the next person who may well be mauled more than I was.