Solomon the wise once wrote, “If your strength fails you in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” I’ve pondered over that for years along with many of his other proverbs. One thing I’ve learned with him is that there is more to what he says than its surface meaning may imply at first.
In life there are two viewpoints we can have about ourselves.. not necessarily one being right or wrong over the other, just different. These two viewpoints are ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’. The subjective viewpoint is the way we look at ourselves from our own, internal point of view. This is the way we think we are based on how we feel or reason from our emotions and thoughts. Internally we can be very accurate on issues that outsiders may have no inkling about. But this subjective viewpoint can also mislead us since we have a tendency to think we have strengths or virtues we don’t fully possess.
The objective viewpoint has a different value in our lives. It is from an outward assessment of how things really stack up with reality that we can gain insight which either confirms or denies what we think about ourselves from within. The objective viewpoint can only be given to us by a friend, relative or other loved one willing to be honest with us. It is this outside view that keeps our internal judgments and fears in check.
Getting back to Solomon’s proverb and how it applies to love.. there are times we believe ourselves to be in love. We usually tend to arrive at this conclusion based on the subjective point of view. We tend to look at how we feel or what we think to determine whether or not we are in love and just how strong that love is. But we cheat ourselves and our ‘loved’ one if we ignore the outward, objective view of how this suspected love manifests itself when under the fire of difficulty or self-sacrifice.
I remember about five or six years ago meeting a woman on New Year’s Eve at a party. I’d never seen her before but that night we got to talking and danced a bit to bring in the new year. After exchanging phone numbers I was glad to hear from her the very next morning. We only dated a few times and already I felt I cared very much for this person. I felt my feelings were strong and that I was sure I wanted this person in my life. But fortunately life always has a way of bringing the ‘day of adversity’ when you least want it, but most need it.
As I got to know this woman more I learned she had many complicated issues in her life. Some people have more going on in this area than others, that’s just how it is. She had a baby daughter out of wedlock, financial difficulties, an angry ex-boyfriend with a gun and a few other issues that made for less than a primrose path. But even after discovering these things I was still convinced my feelings of love for her were strong. Yet I had doubts.
I was willing to help her financially. I was willing to work around the ex-boyfriend. The child I felt I could love as my own should things move along in that direction someday. Yet I knew something within me was holding back. Up to his point all I had going for me was my own subjective, internal viewpoint. What I needed was an objective, outside opinion from someone I could trust so that is what I sought out. Their assessment was that there was more to this person than I was aware of and that I’d basically be a fool to continue with her. I made a mental note of all this and continued to see the woman anyway.
But sure enough, my friend was right. The day quickly came that I found myself sitting with his woman as she revealed certain things and the only thought that kept going through my mind was, “There is no way I could ever trust this woman around my children.” The day of adversity had come and I found the strength of my love was not sufficient.
Since then I have found myself tested again with different circumstances. However this time when my internal feelings came into a collision with reality the result was not that of “This is my limit, I go no further, I have no real love to offer.” Instead this time there is no hesitation to continue in love through thick or thin. There is no doubt, no limit.. but more importantly there is an active willingness to put the other person’s good before my very own. Only time will help smooth out the issues that must be worked out, but the quiet unyielding resolve is to be there even through the fire of adversity. Some people feel most comfortable with very private lives only opened up to one or two trusted friends. This is a good thing and has its merits. Others, like myself, feel most comfortable with feedback from a larger circle of trusted people who will ask me the important questions and make me look at things that I must face. One of Solomon’s other proverbs was, “In the abundance of counsel there is safety.” I wish I could say I’ve always taken the good counsel that was offered me, but at least I know in retrospect that doing otherwise I had only myself to blame. Yet all the while it is good to have that outside, objective viewpoint available in our lives.
I’ve said many times that love, by its very nature, is a giving action. We are all familiar with the term ‘fair-weather friends’ who are with us only when times are easy and good, but fail us in times of adversity. Even more so when dealing with love is it important that we truly see how we stack up to our words and feelings of love when life brings adversity to the one we love. If we do not have such strength we should recognize that as the truth.
As much as we want undying, persevering love for ourselves it is vitally important we have it within us to offer that same committed, giving love which is willing to walk through life’s fire in the time of need. It is only when our strength stands up to the day of adversity that we discover objectively our love is great.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.