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Reflection on Augustine

Carlos De Guzman
A Reordering of Love

In mans incessant quest for happiness, love plays a pivotal role it can either
foster mans happiness, or it could lead to its terrible undoing. In his teachings,
Augustine describes mans act of love as his own inevitability, that in his nature of being
made finite and insufficient by God, man will interminably strive to transcend and go
beyond himself, to seek objects to which he can affix his affections onto. Love is
therefore the act wherein man fills that which was made incomplete by God, it is the
need of mans finitude for the infinite upon which he was made.
In the need of man to love, Augustine goes on to express the nature in which all
things in the world are worth loving. We find that man does not simply run out of things
for him to love, for everything in the world comes from Gods own goodness. It is this
inherent goodness that enables the objects of the world to provide us with a certain
degree of fulfillment. It is in the incompleteness and finitude of man that he turns
towards material objects, to fellow people, and even to his own self for happiness and
satisfaction. However, because such things including man himself are finite and limited,
they can only provide man with some measure of happiness and nothing more than
they were made to give. In failing to realize this, man puts himself at risk of committing
love which is disordered.
For Augustine, disordered love is one that seeks final and complete happiness in
transient and incomplete objects. Although the objects of the world were made
legitimate objects of love through God, they will themselves invariably remain limited.
Disordered love occurs when we place upon certain expectations onto such limited

objects, expectations that require more from an object than it is capable of giving.
Perhaps more than the material and arbitrary objects of the world, people today tend to
overlook their own finitude, and thus a disordered kind of love directed towards ones
fellow people becomes increasingly common. In our failure to understand our own
limited nature as finite beings, we are in danger of committing to a love that is
disordered.
In the past, I myself failed to recognize the finitude of people and fell victim to
disordered love. For as long as I can remember, my mother has always been a constant
figure of love and admiration. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I would turn
to her as any child would for guidance and consolation. With my father being mostly
away from home due to work, it was my mother who sought to attend to my needs and
the needs of my siblings. I looked up to my mother and saw her as a person that could
exude love and joy to limitless bounds and was incapable of doing any wrong. Over the
years however, the truth of her finite and vulnerable nature as a person would soon
come to light.
In the summer of 2012, my mother decided to separate from my father in order to
fulfill a life solely on her own. She had left behind my father and myself, as well as my
two younger siblings, to live on her own and move to the United States. She expressed
with deep regret how she was conflicted and could no longer find happiness within the
life she had grown to live. We would later learn that in the months preceding her sudden
departure, my mother had been troubled with episodes of severe depression and
suffered through a deep and personal sadness. She had come to a point in her life

where her inner burdens had taken the better of her, and made her think to look for
happiness elsewhere.
For quite a time, I was stricken with resentment and restlessness. I had always
expected from my mother the kind of love and affection she had continuously shown me
throughout my childhood and upbringing, and for her to suddenly leave and give up on
her responsibilities, it had left me embittered and overwhelmed. I constantly questioned
myself how the love my family and I had for her was never enough to keep her happy or
content, and for a time I even came to blame myself for my mothers actions. In the
years that followed, my mother would eventually reach out to my siblings and I to atone
and reconcile, and although the relationship we have will never truly be as it was, I am
hopeful that I would be able to understand how to love her better than I did before.
Amidst the love we choose to place upon a multitude of different physical objects,
we tend to overlook how people in which we choose to append our love are themselves
limited as well. In putting certain persons we care for in such high regard, we forget our
insufficient and incomplete nature as people and finite beings. In placing expectations
onto my mother, in asking of her to be the mother I had always seen her as a child and
at a time that she was most vulnerable and limited, I committed towards my mother a
disordered type of love. I failed to recognize her being a limited object of love and a
finite creation of God and asked of her more than she was capable of doing.
As finite beings made upon Gods infinite goodness, we are called to recognize
that only God is capable of the infinite. We were made in such a way that only God can
be the source of ultimate happiness, and although our love can indeed be disordered, it
can be reordered by placing our love in God first and foremost. In doing so, we can

place upon people the right kind of expectations for we understand that we cannot
expect to receive from them the kind of love that can only be received from God.
Reordering love entails loving people properly and bearing witness to their
finitude. This knowledge and realization will help me in building better relationships and
restoring broken ones. While my relationship with my mother has certainly progressed
since her departure, reflecting upon the events that occurred and the significance of
doing so will help me towards rebuilding the connection I have with my mother, and will
likely serve as a guiding principle in the bonds and relationships I build and foster
throughout my life.