Sunday, February 15, 2009

love and power are not scales

Willard Waller, an American sociologist, spend his life studying people in order to gain an understanding in of the complex interplay that goes onin human relationships. Though he wrote many research papers, his life's work can be summed up in two simple statements:

1. In any relationship one person loves more than another

2. The person who loves the least in any relationship has (the) most power and conversely, the person who loves most has the least power.

These two statements make up his Law of Least Love...

Chalke and Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, p. 182

Many questions could be asked about these rather questionable conclusions. For example--

How did this man measure a thing like love, which is by it's nature no measurable?

What does he consider "love"?

What actions does he consider "loving"?

Finally, is this "Law of Least Love" true?

For example, does a parent who exercises power (parental authority) over a child show less love for doing that? Rather, would it not be unloving for the parent to NOT do so? In other words, is it more loving for the parent to be the authority figure, leading and correct thing child, or to simply let the child do it's own thing?

Does a husband and father who exercises godly headship over his family fail to show love when he does so?

Does a coach or teacher fail in love when he or she used her power to make the children do what is necessary--study, practice, learn lessons, run laps?

No doubt, we can think of times when such power has been abused--parents do abuse their kids, husbands do abuse their wives, teachers and coaches do abuse those under them.

But these abuses are simply that--abuses. Rightful authority is abused. Power that should be used rightly is used wrongly. Power without love is a bad thing.

And conversely, love without power is also a bad thing. One can think of what is called the Stockholm Syndrome, where those who suffer abuse become attached to their abusers. One can think of those who say they are "in love" with someone who demeans and mistreats them. One can think of parents who spoil their children, giving in to their every whims and desires, not correcting them and not disciplining them.

Love and power are not a balance--more love, less power; more power, less love--which is essentially what Waller's "Law of Least Love" seems to be saying (or at least that's the spin Chalke and Mann are putting on it); rather, power must be exercised with love, and love must have strength.

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