The Other Side of Love

June 25, 2017 — 3 minute read

While driving through the winding roads of Washington state I pulled over to photograph the iridescent colors rays of a rainbow connecting the sky with a large lake. This was a moment where I ‘stopped to smell the roses’ so to speak. Moments like this illustrate what C.S. Lewis described as appreciation-love. Appreciation is about seeing what is beautiful and taking delight in it. In this moment I appreciated the rainbow for its harmonious color and shape by making some judgment about its value—it is beautiful.

Appreciation is about making a value judgment. What things are worth praising in contrast to other things. What is good, true and beautiful? In some sense, it is about putting oneself in right relationship to the world by attributing praise to things worthy of praise. Coming to see the world as it is—and delighting in what is good, true and beautiful. Whereas gift-love is about putting the world right, appreciation love is about praising what is right. In this sense, appreciation-love is the inverse of love as I have described it in “The Basic Shape of Love.” Here I describe love basically as gift satisfying need.
When I “will what is good for others” I exercise this kind of Love. If my son, when thirsty, asks for a cup of milk, I give him milk to satisfy his need. It is a love that puts things right. So, on one side of love, appreciation-love praises what is right, whereas, gift-love puts things right—each, in this sense, is one side of love.


These loves don’t necessarily happen in their pure form but mix and work together. The kind of person who appreciates a rainbow, or anything else, such as a plant, child or bird, and so on, is the kind of person who would care for such things if given the opportunity. Appreciating the beloved is a natural preliminary step for loving the beloved. This intermingling of appreciation-love and gift-love seems to be a natural harmony of love. Love becomes difficult or maybe less natural when appreciation-love is absent; basically, loving the unlovely is hard.

Loving everyone is difficult because everyone is unlovely to some degree, and perhaps at some times more than others. It is difficult to love annoying people or those who overtly against you. For instance, how many people with opposing political views would extend kindness toward President Trump or President Obama if given the chance? It is easy to care for people when you like them. The difficulty is how to love people you don’t like.

There is a story about loving the loveless that goes by the title of the Good Samaritan. The story originates in first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman culture as an allegorical reply from Jesus to an unnamed lawyer. Jesus and the lawyer agree that “loving your neighbor as you would love yourself” is a good basic principle to live by, but the lawyer asks “Who is your neighbor?” Jesus replies telling this story: A man, probably Jewish, traveling between Jerusalem and Jericho was robbed and nearly killed. Two religious Jewish men came along one after the other, the first, a priest and the second a Levite. Neither man helped the injured victim. Then a Samaritan, a race hated by the Jews, stopped and cared for the injured victim, even paying money to restore his health. Jesus says the Samaritan loved his neighbor and lets this example be the answer to the lawyer’s question.

The Samaritan loved the unlovely, someone who would likely have been racist toward him. He had nothing to gain and nothing to appreciate about the injured victim, yet he loved. Of course, the upshot of this story is about the non-religious Samaritan fulfilling the Jewish law better than the elite religious Jews.

What this story makes clear is that a loving person cares for those who may be unlovely or perceived as such. Two insights on appreciation-love may help us in becoming more like the Samaritan.

The Samaritan, instead of seeing a racist, saw a person with a broken body and went about fixing it. He put right what was broken. Perhaps appreciation-love sees people through rose-colored glasses, envisioning the possibility of good in everyone. It puts aside social-cultural distortions of what is lovely and sees people as they really are. With this starting point, caring for people may be more natural.

Secondly, why not learn to love by loving the lovely? Loving the lovely may be a good practice to help us to love the unlovely since it comes more naturally—kind of like training wheels for becoming a loving person.