True Love is Selfless


I have been writing a series of blog posts titled, “The Pathway to Love,” discussing how to navigate the relationship pathway when discerning marriage.

My first post dealt with self-esteem and loving yourself. My next post had to do with truth as a core foundation of love. Then, in Stage 1 on the Pathway, we looked at the power and beauty of attraction along with some of the pitfalls.

Now our discussion will examine engagement and marriage over the next several posts. In my last post, I discussed “Love as Desire,” where we long for another person of the opposite sex “as a good” for ourselves (in the words of Pope John Paul II). Now, in Stage 3—“Love as Goodwill”— our love grows deeper, and as it grows deeper, it turns more from self-focused to other focused. Pope John Paul II teaches that “Love as Goodwill” doesn’t long for the other person as a good, but it longs for their good. It seeks wholeheartedly to serve them and do what is good for them!

Goodwill is the essence of true love. It is quite free of self-interest and cares more for the other person than oneself.  This is the sure tell sign whether a love is real and deepening.

The opposite of love is selfishness… and lust (which is inherently selfish). Lust is always and forever the opposite and enemy of love, even in marriage. Lust seeks to take and to receive pleasure for oneself, even at the expense of the other person.

Love, on the other hand, seeks to give and to make the other person happy, always striving to do what is good for the other person, even when it’s a sacrifice! Sometimes, our sexual urges or emotional neediness flare up, and there is a strong desire to use another person, even a spouse. This is a struggle, and sometimes a constant one. But the more true love there is, the more you will care for that person’s heart and soul, and try to protect it at all costs, the more you will struggle to overcome your selfish inclinations. (For more on sexual struggles in relation to love, see my last post on “How far is too far: A Different Perspective,”).

Most people don’t intend to be selfish, of course, and the struggle to get over ourselves is something that needs continual work and purification. Marriage will certainly help us in this regard, but the more we can do some of that legwork before marriage, the better. Marriage is all about giving! It is a complete self-donation, a giving of yourself to your spouse, and vice versa. This is the essence of marital love. It’s both sides giving 100%. And, if both sides are giving 100% to each other, then both parties are also receiving 100%.

Love is mutually reciprocal! That is important. It is not one person giving everything and doing all the work in a relationship (or even a majority) while the other person sits back, makes empty promises, and gives little in return. Love is not a one way street in relationships.

As a side note: I personally dislike when people ask me, “Hey, where’s your better half?” I always want to respond, “I’m not a half of a person. I am a whole person, and my wife is too.” Alas.

So, to recap. Marriage is not two halves giving 50%. It’s about two people giving 100% of their lives as a gift to each other! True love, by its very nature seeks to give, and to give generously, even when it’s a sacrifice. Love doesn’t just long for another person as a good, but it longs for their good. It desires to give to them, to sacrifice for them, and to do what it right for them—for their body, mind, soul and emotions.

Does true love demand much sacrifice? Is the road to true love difficult? Yes, and yes, but it’s all worth it! And, that is what makes it true, beautiful, powerful, and lasting.



  1. Michael-85720 June 24, 2015 Reply

    One of the biggest problems is not listening to the Lord putting someone in your life to love them – loving them from a sacrificial Christ-like type of love!

    SO often we just want someone that is good-looking, articulate, sophisticated, talented, a kindred spirit, the list goes on – in other words, the perfect match and love at first site. Unwittingly within us is lodged an ideal prince/princess that will come one day.

    But what if our Lord, in all his wisdom, puts someone much older/younger, fluffier, different even a bit strange, weird, or goofy? As the Scripture says: “For if you love those who love you, what goodness do you have? Even sinners love those who love them.” Imagine how a little more patience, forbearance, and agape (desiring the highest good for the other) would help that insecure immature person? You might just be the one God sent to him/her that s/he might grow in a surprising and marvelous way.

    There’s a true story of a painfully shy and lonely girl who stuttered – no guy could stand being around her – one day a guy who knew her but avoided her happened to be dragged to a Christian Coffeehouse by an acquaintance – and there she was, singing beautifully without a single stammer – he couldn’t believe it was the same girl. In everyday life she bore the cross of stuttering but when she sang unto the Lord not a staccato. Long story short: Her stuttering kept dissipating as they courted, and, happily married, her stuttering completely disappeared.

    As Supertramp said: “See the man with the lonely eyes, take his hand you’ll be surprised.” You’ll have a grateful heart.

    It’s not about being “happy” but about living out the command to love. When we’ve fulfilled that which the Lord has asked of us, then an outpouring of grace and bliss happens. Look at what the people of faith underwent, especially Father Abraham. Remember “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Mt 7:21

    Even the best people have defects (pride is subtle) – but try to see with God’s eyes – see how a person came so far by cooperating with the Lord. You might see a wreck of a person but God sees different – He sees how that person overcame great obstacles, grew exponentially out of dysfunction, stuck with his Faith over family who adamantly were against him/her being a Christian, who strove to live out the Gospel.

    Lastly, love yourself, love sacrificially, walk in the Spirit, keep exercising the virtue of faith, be willing to be whisked off to a strange place, and be open to people and to having your perception of them changed.

  2. Pinky-1015769 October 1, 2013 Reply

    Hi Bryan,

    I need an advice. I am going through a struggle with my love life. My boyfriend is a great person. However, with all that’s happening in his life (personal and professional) he is becoming distant to me. He is also becoming distant to other people, who are close to the two of us. We are interracial, in the same country now, but different cities. I love him, but i will like i am the only one who’s making an effort. because we are long distance and he can’t afford to visit me every weekend unlike before, i know it’s important that we communicate. we agreed to talk every day, at least 10 minutes. but it never happened. and now i’m complaining again, but he doesn’t want to solve it. he doesn’t say he doesn’t want to talk to me but he also don’t want to make a decision. i texted him today, told him about all of my issues and said that maybe i should just move on. i never got a reply. what should i do?

    • Bryan M. October 3, 2013 Reply

      Pinky, thank you for your question. ‘If’ he has responded properly and the way you would expect him to since you wrote this question, then you may weigh what I am about to say a little more.

      My advice is that, if you told him you were going to move on, or even were ‘thinking’ about moving on, and he did nothing about it, then moving on is exactly what you should do. A man is supposed to fight for a woman, and it sounds to me like there’s no fight to speak of. That should be a ‘huge’ red flag for you, answering the question you are asking!

      It’s not an accident that you posted this question on this particular post, a post which is about selfless love. It seems to me that he isn’t thinking about you at all (or perhaps anyone else for that matter), but only himself. That’s not love. Moreover, he’s not trying to work things out. Huge problem. No excuses should be made here for him either. The real thing to think about is, if he has shut you out now, for whatever reason, ‘even’ if he’s going through a hard time, then what would the rest of your life be like together when hard times come? Logic dictates that he would become like this every time things go sour.

      This sounds like a much deeper problem to me. The content of our character and who we really are come out in difficult times. There is no reason should have to be fighting so hard to keep a relationship. I know people who have been in similar circumstances and they refused to let it go until it all blew up. If he cares for you at all, his life and actions should reflect that!! (Please read that sentence again). If he is ignoring you, that is not loving, not grown up, not healthy, and not worthy of you. As difficult as it will be, you should move on.

      (As a side note: If he has just lost interest, which is possible, even though it’s immature, many people today, instead of having the courage to break things off, just say nothing and hope it all fades away).

      I’m sorry if this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but I know you deserve better. I would like to encourage you to learn the lessons you can from this relationship, and then find someone who will give as much to you as you do to them. If this boyfriend isn’t the person God has for you, continuing to stare at a closed door, or even a seemingly closed door, will only prevent you from seeing the more beautiful one God still has yet to open for you.

      As a last piece of advice: I would imagine you would want closure in all of this. But, if he is going to act like this, you probably won’t receive any closure. It is easy to begin blaming yourself or wonder what went wrong, when in reality, it might just be the other person’s problem. It’s better you see this now rather than later when it’s too late!! Pray to God. Ask for enlightenment and guidance. And, pray that God lead you to the person who is your soulmate.

      I will pray for you and your situation Pinky. God bless you.

      ~Bryan Mercier

  3. Carol-799486 September 1, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful article. True love is devoid of the, ‘ me first , I first ‘. For it can only recognize, ‘ you first ‘ .
    The road to love is strewn with thorns. Just like a beautiful rose. You can not touch it without pricking your fingers.
    But love is love. Both a gift and a curse to some. But I believe that a love that is Godly centered will never face an ordeal that can’t surpass any storm that would threaten to reap off a marriage made in heaven.
    A love worth fighting for is a love worth sacrificing for. To fight tooth and nails to keep a relationship intact under God’s loving grace.

  4. Michael-1806 August 27, 2013 Reply

    Thank you Bryan,
    True love indeed longs for the goodwill of the other person. Rooted in love and responsibility, the selflessness naturally occurs and is made manifest by everything we say and do. In fact, though aware love necessarily involves sacrifice, there is an inherent humility that almost prevents one from considering cost. It’s simply what we do for the one whom we love so deeply and dearly. Concerned for their body, mind and soul, we use our time, talents and treasures to bestow love and support, ultimately helping our partner get to Heaven. Recently immersed in such a relationship, I not only wanted to make the other person happy but would have done/would still do anything (except compromise my principles). The sharing of love in this way has been life-changing–bringing peace, joy and gratitude like never before. Authentic love–united in Christ–really knows no bounds. We’re imperfect; sometimes we stumble and misinterpret or miscommunicate, but love can break those barriers. This recognition–along with honesty, trust, forgiveness, commitment and God’s grace–is the glue that maintains and continually inspires that mutually reciprocal love. May God transform us daily to better express our love for Him, our beloved and those around us.

  5. Hayley-796302 August 27, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for the great article Bryan..Its so true – True Love demands much sacrifice and and the road isn’t an easy one , but its still worth every bit of effort!!!

  6. Lisa-933589 August 26, 2013 Reply

    Hi Bryan,

    Thank you for this timely article. Love is mutually reciprocal!

    With some recent heart break, it seems that sometimes–each partner may have a gift or particular way that they can give & receive–and obstacles to the love as well. In my case, I found someone to be very giving, loving and generous in many ways–but not transparent (which is how I feel love secured) and this really effected my level of trust. I have such gratitude for how we were able to share love

    I wish to give my 100% as it is when I feel closest to God–and loved ones. A foundation of trust is necessary it seems at times, and at other times blind faith is the risk we take. I find in relationships and courting–to die to self is also necessary and one of the hardest things to do–while also remaining receptive to loved one and God’s holy will. We are all imperfect, and that purification process you speak of Bryan is not easy–but rewarding when you go through it for the greater good. Wanting to give 100% and having the trust to do so, is a more daunting task. I do notice that I tend to want to be “secured” in love by the beloved–and I think that’s where things may get derailed–the only guarantee and security is truly in God. And emotional neediness can kick in when you least expect it, because in my heart l want to love and be loved-and express that love. I continue to pray that God refines me, forms me and prepares my heart -with every interaction, day and opportunity to chose love. If I fail, It is right there in my vulnerability that I can love and be loved best by HIS grace. For me, it is dying to self–that is the biggest challenge–to die to self, surrender everything-trust completely in his Holy will–without any reserve–knowing that love ultimately prevails. JMJ+Lisa

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