Catholicism: Day 25 – Love, Pain, and Indifference

It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all

The opposite of love is indifference” – Stubborn Love by the Lumineers

C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was an atheist who converted to Christianity and wrote several books about his adopted religion.

In The Problem of Pain, Lewis ambitiously attempts to reconcile the existence of suffering with the existence of a benevolent and loving God.

I was particularly impressed with an analogy he used to explain that God’s love for man is not an indifferent love. He compares God’s love for man with man’s love for a lover.

A man who loves a woman does not become indifferent to her looks or her behavior, he becomes more sensitive to them!

When we fall in love with a woman, do we cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul? Do we not rather then first, begin to care? Does any woman regard it as a sign of love in a man that he neither knows nor cares how she is looking? Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost: but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved; his ‘feeling is more soft and sensible than are the tender horns of cocked snails.’ Of all powers he forgives most, but he condones least; he is pleased with little, but demands all.

Lewis was trying to show that it is impossible for God to love us and be indifferent to us. To make God’s love indifferent, we’d have to trivialize the word love, and say God loves us in the same way that we would “love” a particular restaurant or movie.  Really, it is not love at all.

Because God’s love is not indifferent, he will try to mold man in ways that are uncomfortable and even painful to man.

Similarly, a man may object to his wife “letting herself go” and try to change her behavior accordingly. Or a wife would protest the fact that her husband plays video games instead of spending time with their children.

It is more worrying when a couple doesn’t care at all what their partner does or does not do.

For example, last year when I had just started my job and was considering looking for another one, my girlfriend gently hinted that I had a pattern of quitting things when they get hard.


That hurt; I immaturely gave her the silent treatment for a day or so.

But it was the truth.

I can’t imagine a stranger or a non-close friend telling me that. They might say something like “Sure, your job should make you happy. Quit tomorrow!”

The people who love and care for you will cause you pain not because they want to hurt you, but because they love and care for you.

One of the symptoms of depression is losing interest in things you used to care about, including yourself. In fact, depression may really be indifference to yourself.

When you are indifferent to yourself, you do not love yourself.

This web comic illustrates the cartoonist’s personal experience with depression.

The comic is about being indifferent to everything. There is no sadness or pain, just nothingness.

The author had stopped loving herself.

C.S. Lewis is trying to reconcile pain and suffering with the existence of a benevolent and loving God. Even if you reject God, he still does a good job of pointing out that love and pain go hand-in-hand; we should be worried about indifference, not pain.