Labors of Love Define the Wholesome Character

Labors of Love

We’ve all heard the phrase “labor of love.” But what exactly are labors of love? I think this worthy of some contemplation this Labor Day week.

It’s fitting that we celebrate the value of human labor. But I wonder how many of us really appreciate how valuable some labor truly is. And I also wonder if we appreciate how our attitudes toward work largely define our character.

Differing Sentiments toward Work

Work is a necessity. But for some of us, it’s more than that. It can be the expression of our life’s passion. And it can be an important means of personal fulfillment. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to be involved in something that makes the best use of our talents. And if the endeavor allows us to make a meaningful social contribution to boot, our work can indeed feel most rewarding .

Unfortunately, to some, “work” is a dirty little word. In fact, some characters regard a certain kind of labor repugnant. The kind of labor I’m talking about is labor on behalf of someone or somthing else. This is what labors of love are all about.

Disturbed characters can’t comprehend labors of love. They resist labor that doesn’t immediately profit them. For them, that kind of w-o-r-k is truly a four-letter word.

The Heart of the Problem

It’s not that disturbed characters simply won’t work. True, some are, for lack of better words, lazy and parasitic. (This is especially true of some antisocial and sociopathic types.) But even the most problematic characters can put out a great deal of effort sometimes. Ironically, career theives often work harder planning their crafty schemes than they would probably have to work at a legitmate enterprise. There’s just something about honest work born of genuine love they find abhorent.

What disturbed characters really detest the most is the kind of work begotten of a sense of obligation. They simply detest putting out effort that might, even in part, serve something higher or bigger. Already feeling entitled, they can’t imagine being beholding to anyone or anything.

I talk about disturbed characters’ negative attitudes toward loving labor in Character Disturbance, In Sheep’s Clothing, and The Judas Syndrome. Specifically, I talk about the “something for nothing” mentality (i.e. “quick and easy thinking”) that helps foster such negative attitudes.

The Hard Road to Integrity

Perhaps the toughest job we have in life is forging a character of real integrity. All of us have our strengths and weaknesses. And some of these are naturally endowed. We also have our share of hardships to overcome. So, it’s a real challenge, espe to reckon with ourselves in a way that we make of ourselves productive, contributing, and respect-worthy persons. Disturbed characters resist this kind of work more than any other. Conversely, labors of love are the hallmark of healthy, wholesome characters.

Forging a character of integrity is the most noble of all labors of love. But finding room in one’s heart to be the best one can be for the welfare of all requires an uncommon level of dedication. (See: Forge Sound Character With Hard Work.) And there’s absolutely no reason to commit to this arduous and life-long undertaking unless one has a deep underlying sense of obligation. That sense of obligation has to stem from a feeling of indebtedness. And that indebtedness has to be born of gratitude. (See also: Humble Gratitude Inspires Indebtedness.)

It’s ironic that l-o-v-e is also a four-letter word. But it just doesn’t evoke the same sentiments for people of integrity that w-o-r-k does for disturbed characters. When folks of good character labor in love, for love, and with love, the burdens of life somehow seem lighter.


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4 thoughts on “Labors of Love Define the Wholesome Character

  1. This is such a thought-provoking post. And beautiful. I have awakened to the truth about my marriage to someone with a character disorder very recently. It is painful. The years of joylessness, of service and sacrifice that was never enough, I was gifted with an awakening- an unmistakable decision point. I would have remained in the toxic marriage forever, believing it my duty to remain, to “work” on it, because love is labor. So many marriage counselors forced this point. But I never asked myself if it was true labor, of love, and devotion to a common purpose, common values. When the narcissist is revealed, you realize how far apart you were.

    He forced me to be the breadwinner for the past three years. Faking the future, and keeping me hanging on the fantastic possibilities he would weave. When I wasn’t working outside of the home, I was toiling within it, while he pursued pleasurable projects as I worked. So confusing was this state of affairs that I would oscillate between feeling upset and wondering when he would realize that I had given enough. His realization never came. When I expressed my unhappiness with the “marriage” he would rage, rage, and rage some more. I was abandoning him, he would say. I stayed. And now, I am deeply grateful for a decision point of no return. I thank God for it, because it is a gateway to the truth, to healing. All of those old wounds that kept on festering, I am looking forward to healing.

    Thank you, Dr. Simon for sharing your gift with us. Truth and freedom are interlinked, and both are precious. You’re helping many of us into life (and living) again.

  2. Sharing a genuine ‘labor of love’ may or may not be measured in equal parts all, at the same time in life. The emotional investment, is the rhythm of the dance…one leads, one may follow, but together it’s one tune to which we move…if we’re to dance this dance. So many comments indicate a sense of awareness (now) that entitles them to a position of ‘evening the score’…because “they” have become enlightened…vs accepting their own limited sight along the way that could have a mutual part feeding the appetite of the one about whom we’re now so displeased. For how else would any of us learn and become aware, were it not for having our own eyes also opened? Or….is it only…the ‘fault’ of the other who was not as dependent as some…yet becomes the ’cause’ of the displeasure and the eventual undoing of a relationship? Listen to the tone of of those who are suddenly aware, thankful, and encouraged as they step over their own blindness along the road now that there’s an autopsy to read in their relief. Real, honest-to-goodness relationships are shared events, and should be viewed where possible, to be equal as a result, barring the need for unforgivenenss to remain rooted.

  3. “Ironically, career theives often work harder planning their crafty schemes than they would probably have to work at a legitmate enterprise.”

    I’ve long struggled to understand why some individuals are willing go through the time and trouble of planning these crafty schemes against me (or anyone else).

    “So, it’s a real challenge, espe to reckon with ourselves in a way that we make of ourselves productive, contributing, and respect-worthy persons.Disturbed characters resist this kind of work more than any other.”

    Reading this, it’s starting to make sense why.

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