A renegade philosopher who spent most of his life at odds with the church, Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) insisted that every person must find his own way to God.
To love another in spite of his weaknesses and errors and imperfections is not perfect love. No, to love is to find him lovable in spite of and together with his weakness and errors and imperfections. Let us understand each other.
Suppose there were two artists, and the one said, “I have traveled much and seen much in the world, but I have sought in vain to find someone worth painting. I have found no face with such perfection of beauty that I could make up my mind to paint it. In every face I have seen one or another little flaw. Therefore I seek in vain.” Would this indicate that this artist was a great artist? In contrast, the second one said, “Well, I do not pretend to be a very good artist, if one at all; neither have I traveled very much. But remaining in the little circle closest to me, I have not found a face so insignificant or so full of faults that I still could not discern in it a more beautiful side and discover something glorious. Therefore I am happy in the art I practice, though I make no claim to being an artist.” Would this not indicate that precisely this one was the artist, one who by bringing a certain something with him found then and there what the much-traveled artist did not find anywhere in the world, perhaps because he did not bring a certain something with him! Was not the second of the two the real artist?
It is a sad upside-downness, altogether too common, to talk on and on about how the object of love should be before it can be loved. The task is not to find the lovable object, but to find the object before you lovable – whether given or chosen – and to be able to continue finding this one lovable, no matter how that person changes. To love is to love the person one sees. As the apostle John reminds us: “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
…We foolish people often think that when a person has changed for the worse we are exempted from loving him. What a confusion in language: to be exempt from loving. As if it were a matter of compulsion, a burden one wished to cast away! If this is how you see the person, then you really do not see him; you merely see unworthiness, imperfection, and admit thereby that when you loved him you did not really see him but saw only his excellence and perfections. True love is a matter of loving the very person you see. The emphasis is not on loving the perfections, but on loving the person you see, no matter what perfections or imperfections that person might possess.
He who loves the perfections he sees in a person does not see the person, and thus does not truly love, for such a person ceases to love as soon as the perfections cease. But even when the most distressing changes occur, the person does not thereby cease to be. Love does not vault into heaven, for it comes from heaven and with heaven. It steps down and thereby accomplishes loving the same person throughout all his changes, good or bad, because it sees the same person in all his changes. Human love is always flying after the beloved’s perfections. Christian love, however, loves despite imperfections and weaknesses. In every change love remains with him, loving the person it sees.
Alas, we talk about finding the perfect person in order to love him. Christianity teaches us that the perfect person is the one who limitlessly loves the person he sees. We humans always look upward for the perfect object, but in Christ love looks down to earth and loves the person it sees. If then, you wish to become perfect in love, strive to love the person you see, just as you see him, with all his imperfections and weaknesses. Love him as you see him when he is utterly changed, when he no longer loves you, when he perhaps turns indifferently away or turns to love someone else. Love him as you see him when he betrays and denies you.
Love the person you see and see the person you love.