I’m trying to resolve a question I’ve had for a long time:
As a Christian, if you are not feeling love/kindness/compassion towards someone, are you supposed to “pretend,” or should you pray for the Holy Spirit to change your heart?
I have several thoughts on this issue, but nothing I would consider a “correct answer.”
Many people talk about being changed by the Holy Spirit. Paul talks about becoming a new person: “It is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me.” Jesus and Paul both talked about love being a crucial element of conversion to Christianity. Paul said “I can do all these things, but if I have not love (charity), I am but a clanging symbol.”
I also know that there are different levels of love, and that being loving to someone when you don’t get a feeling in return is more noble than the “puppy love,” where you get great satisfaction from sharing love with someone.
I have been a “Christian” all my life, (first Baptist, now Catholic). The reason I place “Christian” in quotes is because while I believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Trinity, etc., and I now believe that the Catholic Church was the church established by Jesus, and that we must follow her teachings, unfortunately I cannot say that I have ever experienced the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and changing of my heart that so many others speak of. I sadly believe that Paul’s passage in Corinthians – “Love is patient, love is kind…hopes all things, endureth all things…” pretty much describes me – as the exact opposite of what I am. I am selfish, uncompassionate, etc. I have prayed for the conversion of my heart, but so far nothing has happened. This brings me to my point.
A couple of years ago my wife and I had an issue that came between us, and it tore my heart out. I want to work through it, examining the reality, and trying to find a reasonable explanation for what she did. She wants me to forget it and move on. My belief is that working through it using reality would build our marriage on a stronger foundation. She believes that every day you should wake up and put on a happy face, trying to forget the past. In fairness to her, she has done the same thing when I have failed her in some way. To me, it’s like putting a fresh coat of paint on rotted wood.
My question is essentially this:
Is it better to work with reality in a marriage relationship, or is it better to “fake it” when you’re not really feeling loving towards your spouse? How does the Holy Spirit’s conversion of a person’s heart fit in to all this? If Christian love means that we often fake it, then how is that different than the “self-help” books on the market today?