Second Greatest?

Let’s play a game. Who are:

Ernst Schmied/Jurg Marmet?
John Landy?
Pete Conrad?

Each of them are among the greats in their field … and each of them is virtually unknown. Perhaps it would help to compare them to this list of people:

Edmund Hillary/Tenzing Norgay
Roger Bannister
Neil Armstrong

Norgay and Hillary were the first pair to reach the top of Mount Everest – Schmied and Marmet were the second.

Bannister was the first person to break the four-minute mile – Landy was the second.

Armstrong commanded the first successful moon mission – Conrad commanded the second.


There’s something wrong with second?

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40.)

Jesus ranked the two commandments – loving God is first and loving others is second – but he also made clear they’re inseparable. “All the Law and the Prophets” hang on them. All of the Old Testament. All of the Bible that Jesus and his friends read. All of God’s revelation to his people. All of it on the two of them together.

Here’s another thing about those commandments: loving your neighbor as yourself may come in second in comparison to loving God, but it’s gospel truth that it stands in first place in our relationships with the people God has put in our lives.

Avoiding Second-Besting – is there a right way to love everyone?

So here’s the frustrating part. I know what I like. What I don’t know is whether it’s what other people like.

Here’s what I mean. If you look in the dictionary under introvert, you would see my picture in the margin. What happens then if I, an introvert, try to love an extrovert as I love myself? Because seriously, one big way I care for myself is by getting away from crowds and noise and activity. It’s bliss to me.

Or what about when an extrovert tries to love an introvert as the extrovert loves himself or herself? Invite me to a loud party, a big night out with lots of people? No thanks. I’d more likely run off and find a quiet room to decompress in.*

So I have a few more questions, and I confess that I am looking for answers here, not offering them:

Can others appreciate the type of love we appreciate for ourselves?

Is it hit and miss as to whether they experience this as love or annoyance?

Is it their fault if they don’t appreciate our acts of love? Is it our fault?

How do you do this?

*In fact I have, on occasion. It’s a tactic that did not endear me to one of my college girlfriends. That’s what I got for dating an extrovert.

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27 Responses to Second Greatest?

  1. Aimee Byrd says:

    C.S. Lewis talked about how strongly we really love ourselves. Even when we do something we hate, and supposedly hate ourselves for doing it, our selfish love is so overpowering that we still seek our own good. In loving someone as we love ourselves, we should always seek their good, which of course is being conformed to the image of Christ. In loving someone as we love ourselves, we should put ourselves second. We should seek out that first commandment above for the “other” that we are to love. That is ultimately their best good. You might need the three cups of coffee I’ve had this morning to follow my writing today though 🙂

    • Tim says:

      I’m just finishing my second cup, so I’ve just about been able to keep up, Aimee! I’m glad you brought up Lewis’s writings on how we love others. If I remember right, one of his points was that even when we think we’ve acted horribly we are still not that apt to condemn ourselves as quickly as we would someone else whose behavior we disapprove of.

      He made another good point on loving others in The Great Divorce: “You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God.” I think he’s getting at why the second commandment comes second. Loving God is the first and greatest commandment because, really now, is anything else worth a lick without that relationship?


  2. bekster says:

    The first thing that comes to mind is the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. Different people do, indeed, interpret love differently. A husband may “speak” in the language of “physical touch” while his wife understands only “acts of service,” so no amount of hugs and kisses will make her feel love if all she wants is for her husband to do the dishes. I think the key, though, is knowing the languages of those close to us so that we can at least understand their intentions. Maybe we still won’t feel the love from them the same as if they were speaking in our language, but at least we can recognize that they are trying. At the same time, we should try to figure out how to speak in their languages, even if it is not natural for us.

    • Tim says:

      Excellent, Becky! Taking the effort to understand what someone else is intending is a huge step in showing our love for them and being able to appreciate their love for us.


  3. Mary Anne says:

    I think of one of one of Madeleine L’Engle’s young heroines who is being assisted by a sort of guardian angel in one of her adventures. The angel is quite an unnerving being because he claims to have no emotions. At one point he calls upon her to love a person in her life who is, to say the least, not appealing. She pleads to the angel: “How can I feel love for HIM?” And the angel blinks at her in puzzlement for a few moments, then replies: “Love isn’t what you feel. It’s what you DO.”

    So . . . what would I do if I felt love for someone? When you’ve answered that question, I suppose you go and do that thing, if possible.


    • Tim says:

      “… you go and do that thing, if possible.” Nicely put. What a great way to describe James’s instruction to be not just hearers of the word but doers also, MA.


  4. Juliet says:

    Talking about love… I think it is very important to love ourself first. Then when we love the others we become able to do things that we usually don´t do, and we began to comprehend the ways of the others and the others if love us start to know our likes and dislikes.People learn about love everyday and we also learn to complement each other by our differences. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      Right, Juliet. If we hold ourselves in low regard it’s not surprising that we can’t relate to others very well. As John said, “We love because he first loved us,” and there is nothing that should give us a higher regard for who we are than the fact that God loves us!


  5. Lyndsay says:

    Hey Tim,

    Great post. I have given this a ton of thought too, and tend to look at it from the paradigm of loss (particularly as a mental health professional). When you look at those individuals who struggle to love others (as best depicted by the selfishness cultivated through addictions, or even depression), the common theme in their lives (most) is their own sense of worthlessness. Rarely do they see their life experiences as creating in them a sense of agency. They rarely paint themselves as the hero of their circumstances (making it through, thriving despite tragedy etc…). Rather they often choose to remain in the objectified position of victimhood (which has a number of psycho-emotional payoff’s). This allows them to continue to abuse themselves and (particularly in addiction) others. It keeps them in the position, and their brain chemistry then continues to reinforce this state. Unable to love themselves, they are unable to give love to others freely. Therefore when we are commanded to “Love others as ourselves” I believe it is intended to instruct us in two ways. First I believe this commandment is focused on Christ’s example as a demonstration of how we are to treat ourselves. Jesus’ example of grace, forgiveness, rest, teaching, and open acceptance, must be extended to our own personal dialogue. We should not speak to ourselves in a manner that condemns our personhood, our worth as human beings, or our agency. If we do, we actively reject Jesus’s teachings, and God’s grace.

    Secondly, we are also then, to treat others in a way that affirms their individual personhood. We need to affirm their worth as individuals made in the image of Christ, speak to them in ways that promote health, grace, healing, support and forgiveness. This is where things can get sticky. Personal judgments about the “rightness” of someone else’s lifestyle can become a barrier to human relationships and thus prevent us from loving others; it can be hard to offer grace in some circumstances!! I think though, if we focus on the importance of recognizing the need for self-love (as defined above), the ability to give love to others in ALL circumstances becomes easier. We can then love others from the paradigm of their personhood, joining them in the journey of their life, without necessarily condoning all their choices (the nuances of how to do this are a very different topic!).

    Thus, love for others expressed in the bigger picture of personhood is intrinsically validating. When you are oriented to that perspective, you are naturally drawn to understand the other. Time is then spent on understanding what they need, want, desire, etc… This centers you as an individual. When two individuals in a close relationship do this, you can easily see how many arguments, annoyances, grievances etc…can be overcome. It requires an immense amount of self-sacrifice, and a diligent effort to step outside of oneself. We all will fail at it, but we also aim for it as the ideal.

    This is where the first commandment “Love God” comes in. Where else do we get our strength, our insight, our perseverance, and our desire to love others? How else do we know what it means to love?

    Hope these thoughts give you answers to some of your questions.


    • Tim says:

      Lyndsay, those are excellent thoughts! Thank you so much for taking the time to explore these ideas here.

      One thing I think comes across from the context of the passage where Jesus tells us to love others as ourselves is that he wants his audience to assume from the get-go that he is talking about godly love. As with the addicts you mention, for example, Jesus is not telling such people that they should love others by giving away addictive substances for free!


    • Aimee Byrd says:

      I think there’s something to that whole idea of the personal dialogue. So often we don’t take notice of the habits in our own thinking. I think that is also where the commandment to love God takes us away from the inward/self-destructive thoughts to looking outward to the only One who has loved wholly (& holy). Great thoughts.

  6. Hi Tim,

    Glad to see you have your own blog now. I saw your posts on other blogs. I see that you’re a judge. How do you have time to blog all day? 🙂 That’s one easy going job.


    • Tim says:

      Glad you could give this place a look see, MJ!

      Some day I might write an article about how “easy” [ahem!] my job is. But I will say that I use my recesses and lunch time fairly productively … that is when I’m not working through lunch with meetings and conference calls. Same with time in the office before taking the bench … again, when I’m not cramming in the committee meetings I have to attend before the courtroom opens. Same with evenings, as I’m about to preside over a mock trial program tonight that will keep me out of the house for about 3 1/2 hours. Judging’s awesome, but the hours are killer.

  7. Wow, what a stellar post! I love the introduction!

    So me at parties is okay now, because I have a little baby and it’s totally socially acceptable for me to run off into a room with her for whatever reason, or just talk to her the whole time, or chase her around. It’s a great “out.” Ohh how I hate parties.

    And to answer your questions… well, or not to answer your questions but to sort of think through some things… When I was living in community, the other girl who was there was extremely extroverted and exactly my opposite. It took a few months for us to articulate to each other what it would take for each one of us to feel loved by the other, and it was uncomfy and hard. We didn’t get close to perfection, but we made strides. I think it’s definitely possible to love someone who is your opposite and experiences love in the opposite way from you, but it takes a lot of work, communication, and grace.

    Do you (or anyone else reading these comments), as an introvert, sometimes find yourself wishing you were an extrovert just because it would make life a little easier? It’s not that I want God to change me — it’s just that I see how extroverted our world and jobs are and think it would be easier as an extrovert. I’d love to hear an extrovert’s take on this.

    • Tim says:

      Uncomfy and hard … made strides … takes a lot of work. What a great description of what real love looks like in community, Rachel.

      I don’t think I’ve ever desired to be extraverted. Probably because I don’t really understand extroverts. In fact, I think I understand an introverted women better than I do an extraverted man. Extroverts are like a different species to me sometimes!


  8. Jeannie says:

    Second is the new first. I thought everyone knew that.

    I was going to say something about the Five Love Languages book but someone else got to it, well, first. I liked the comment about loving other people in a way that affirms them as people made in God’s image. If we do that, then the specifics of what we do (send them a card, throw them a party with 500 people, phone them, text them, hug them) are less important because the respect and honour take precedence. You asked very good questions: what could possibly be more important than how to love?

    I’m going to check your blog out more now that I’ve found it. (I keep seeing your posts on other people’s blogs.) Looks really interesting and I like the humour.

    (As an aside: do introverts read strangers’ blogs & post on them more than extroverts do? I’d bet yes.)

    • Tim says:

      Jeannie, your aside made me laugh. A chuckle is a kind of a laugh, right? Because that’s what I did, and I did it audibly. The a/c came on at the same time, though, so I don’t think my clerk outside my door could hear me.

      “Second is the new first.” Watch out, Jeannie. That line is good enough to steal. Copyright it quick!


      • Jeannie says:

        Can’t find the gosh darn little C with a circle around it on my keyboard … did find esc, prt sc, and something that looks like a straight pin with a cross in it. We Xians find crosses everywhere…

  9. I am slow on understanding what introverts and extroverts are. I never understood it. And can you be both or is that luke warm?

    “Can others appreciate the type of love we appreciate for ourselves?” – I’m confused again. I think so though.

    “Is it hit and miss as to whether they experience this as love or annoyance?” – I think it goes both way for me. I annoy people who don’t get me and I am loved by others who see me for who I am in Christ. I am a bit of an odd person, just to say.

    “Is it their fault if they don’t appreciate our acts of love? Is it our fault?” – Neither. Some people are slower than others and some people don’t see love in the same way as another might be. I know someone who wants love through wanting their parent to be proud of them while another feels love is given to them by the gifts people give them and others see love as sacrificial (pretty much how I see it).

    “How do you do this?” – Through the love of Christ.

  10. Astamarina says:

    I am enjoying your blog and am glad to get to see a different side to you than we can see at Pemberley. Not that you’re someone else, but now who you are makes more sense when I get a rounded view. I look forward to reading your blog—and to being both challenged and entertained by doing so!

    As for loving others how we would like to be loved (or golden rule): I think we should love others so that we give them what they need to know they are being loved, as we would like to know and feel we are loved. Not that God doesn’t call us to show love even when the other person might not know it is love, but communicating love is quite important as well as just having it. One way this might be done is by paying attention to a person’s life and what they say and do. For example, a friend of mine randomly mentioned liking Sourpatch, so when I visited her, I brought some along as a gift. She was surprised and appreciated it. I think the gift also communicated to her that I listened to what she said, even minor details, and cared enough to remember.

    You can try to make people feel that they are special in a good way. This reminds me of the book Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. IIRC, in the book, Stargirl pays attention to whose birthday is coming up and tries to send them a birthday greeting, even if she doesn’t know them; she pays attention to a kid and makes up a book about what the kid was like when little so when he [?] is grown, he can enjoy learning about when he was a kid. Even though she might not have known these people personally or very well, she paid attention and tried to do something that would make them feel special. She is an odd character, but an positively inspiring one.

  11. Tim says:

    “Not that God doesn’t call us to show love even when the other person might not know it is love, but communicating love is quite important as well as just having it.” Great point! God calls us to love even if the other person just doesn’t get it.

    Glad you came over from RoP. It’s fun to get to know people in broader ways!


  12. Hi Tim, I somewhat agree regarding titles. However, singing in Latin at seven years-of-age is certainly worth a mention, I think, Tim. Perhaps this wee girl is on her way to becoming the next Dame Kiri Te Kanawa:

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