Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Loves Me, Loves Me Not: The Ethics of Unrequited Love

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Loves Me, Loves Me Not: The Ethics of Unrequited Love

Article excerpt

LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT: THE ETHICS OF UNREQUITED LOVE. Laura A. Smit, 2005. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Pp. 205, Pb, $18.99. Reviewed by David C. Walther (Scottsdale Bible Church/Scottsdale, AZ).

It is a delight to sit down with a curiously titled new book, begin to move through the opening pages, have your expectations built up, and then interact with an engaging author as he or she insightfully and captivatingly guides you through an intriguing aspect of the human experience. This experience is nearly universally experienced and yet so neglected in the discussions of like topics. This jewel of a book delivers on all of these counts. It is fresh and original, yet tied to precepts of classic Christian theology.

The author, Laura A. Smit, who earned her Ph.D. in Medieval Philosophy and Theological Aesthetics from Boston College, is dean of the chapel and assistant professor of theology at Calvin College. She is ordained in both the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America. She has served as a youth director as well as a pastor.

Smit makes clear in the introduction that this is not a book about relationships. "Rather, this is a book about how to handle love apart from a relationship-either when you are in love with someone who does not love you, or when you are pursued by someone you do not love." Further, "[t]he goal of this book is to offer tools for disciplined self-examination of our feelings, for accepting responsibility for those things we can control, and for finding grace in those things we cannot control" (p. 11).

The topic of unrequited love has been addressed in countless fictional works, popular songs and poems. Smit includes many examples that span well-known music lyrics, recent television shows and movies, in addition to literary works by the likes of Jane Austen, Dante, and Shakespeare. Prior to this book, what had been less available was scholarly research into the topic and ethical consideration of this often-perplexing matter.

In combining a scholarly and personal approach, Smit's book is an attempt to understand this human predicament from a framework of Christian ethics. Doctrinal teachings exist supporting various positions on such things as lust, premarital sex, and adultery. Less developed, if at all developed, is the area of unrequited love. That is, where do you go in your confession of faith, or your church's statement of beliefs, or even the Bible for that matter, in establishing a personal, teaching, and/or counseling position on the ethics of rejecting the love of another or confessing your love to another non-reciprocating individual? …

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