If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance.
The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. ~ C.S. Lewis
On the surface, it seems like such a small, subtle shift in focus. Semantics really. The virtue of love and the virtue of unselfishness. Doesn’t it all still boil down to love? I think it does. It’s all about love. The question is who’s the recipient?
When I substitute a negative term for a positive virtue, I’ve jumped tracks. It becomes all about me. I begin to act as if I’m called to take up my cross like a martyr rather than to acknowledge that God, in His grace, is already carrying all the weight. It’s the love train, either direction.The question is, which track am I taking?