A few years ago, I was sitting at lunch table with a friend I’d known rather casually for about four years. We knew each other from sharing the same floor Freshmen year, so he’d gotten to know me and my quirks fairly well. I remember he asked me some question as to what I was planning on doing that night. A rather inconsequential question, but of course I could not provide a simple answer. I told him my plan to take it easy, watch a movie with some friends, and proceeded to explain why I was doing that instead of other activities. Apparently I had done this quite a bit. He smiled and told me, “you justify everything!” Knowing me, I probably created some sort of argument to explain why I justify everything. Unfortunately he was right. I come up for reasons as to why I toast my bread a certain way. So, what does it mean to justify things?
In an interesting read, one of my favorite authors paints a perplexing image,
Just picture a lover. You agree, don’t you, that he’d be capable of speaking of his beloved day in and day out, as long as the day lasted, and the night as well? But do you suppose it could occur to him, do you think it would be possible for him, don’t you think he would find it disgusting to speak in such a way as to offer three reasons for concluding that there was after all something to being in love- more or less as when the pastor gives three reasons for concluding that it pays to pray, as though the price of prayer had fallen so low that three reasons were needed to help give it crumb of esteem? (Anti-Climacus (Soren Kierkegaard) Sickness Unto Death
I apologize for removing a passage from its context, but the idea (even removed from its context commenting largely on the Danish Church) Anti-Climacus presents is still an interesting one to ponder. Many of us, even if we have lived a predominantly single life can relate to this by either being in-love, or love-struck by someone. During these moments, we do not have to define our love, or infatuation with an individual. I love her, because she is. Her essence cannot be restricted to mere reasons. If it were, my reasons could be refuted and from a logical perspective, should prevent me from loving. For someone in love, that idea is absolutely abhorrent because he or she cannot imagine that love will cease.*
No, Kierkegaard’s cannon is not an inerrant corpus, but it forces you to think a little. If you’re like me, the passage bothers you a bit because you can relate, yet think of all the things you justify. I justify not the menial things, but my faith, life decisions, morals, ethics, politics, etc. Am I really demeaning everything by coming up with reasons? I doubt it. I Peter 3:15 tells us to have a reason for the hope within, which means (depending on your viewpoint of scripture) that it is good to explain why you believe what you believe. Yet, I think there is one valuable thing that we can take away.
Endless reasoning is demeaning and damaging. If I love someone, and defending my love for her more than I am loving, I have just demeaned and neglected the one I love. I may learn seemingly everything there is to know about the person, but will not fulfill my duty, or even desire as a lover. This is utterly fruitless. In the same vein, if I come up with 50 good reasons as to why I should give to the poor, yet never act, who cares? That is demeaning.
In conclusion, I just need to enjoy my toast.
* If the person I love shares a passion for hiking and the outdoors, there is a chance that it was an attraction point initially. However, if she is paralyzed in an accident and is no longer able to hike, I will still love her if it was truly love in the first place. The “reason,” common interest, would’ve been refuted, but it doesn’t matter to one who truly loves.