The opposite of love

When I was young, I thought the opposite of love must be hate.

This seemed obvious to my forming mind – love is a strong emotion at one pole, and hate is an equally strong emotion at the other. But as I grew up, I started to see that the fires of love and hate need the oxygen of focus and effort, or the fire dies. While the ends are different, love and hate share a key similarity. Maybe the two aren’t so opposite after all.

Then I read Elie Weisel’s famous quote that the opposite of love is indifference

Ah! Of course! If I am indifferent to someone, I feel nothing toward that person and I will do nothing for him or her. I won’t encourage, I won’t build up, I won’t help. I just don’t care. The focus and effort love requires is absent.

Later I heard that Pope John Paul II said that the opposite of love is use.

This caused me to pause and reflect. Using or taking advantage of someone treats them like a thing and not a person, which denies their infinite worth. Things are meant to be used; people are not. Using someone takes focus and effort. It may be accompanied by feelings of indifference or hatred.

But then I read 1 John 4:18 and wondered if the opposite of love is fear.

That passage says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Every time I’m afraid, I am indifferent to the needs of others around me. I may even use someone in trying to secure my safety. In extreme cases, I may choose to hate, thinking I’m protecting myself.

Now I’m not so sure there is an opposite of love. But thinking about this surely has highlighted for me some key ways it can be distorted and blocked.


23 thoughts on “The opposite of love

  1. Janet Olson Chlebek says:

    To fully love, can leave us vulnerable at times and to let that guard down is very difficult for us humans. But God provides us with perfect love as the passage says and this is our example. This is not always easy, I know. Thanks Jim for this.


    • That’s the “problem,” if you will, with loving — it does leave us vulnerable. And so many of us run hard from vulnerability!


  2. Fascinating post – I think my vote goes with indifference – “use” is an action borne out of indifference. Fear and hate are the evil twins of love…


  3. Jim, this is so true. Fear is the culprit for many dysfunctions. What we may perceive as “indifference” may just be the act of cutting off emotions for “fear” of feeling, needing, and being vulnerable.

    I noticed too, that fear often pairs itself off with pride. Who wants to admit fear or insecurity? And what better way to cover up this supposed weakness than by using pride. Pride says “I don’t need her/him/them. It says, “those people are idiots for not understanding me and they need to change, not me.”

    This is a thoughty post that creates opportunity for a lot of discussion. Thanks for sharing.


    • Thanks Renee! Hm, nice thread you’ve pulled here. Perhaps the things we do to hedge against our own vulnerability are, in total, the opposite of love. To love absolutely risks being vulnerable.


  4. Appreciate your sharing of your thoughts. I had always leaned toward “indifference” because of the intensity of passion required to maintain love. But you make some excellent points in favor of “use” and “fear.”


  5. I think the opposite of love is selfishness. When we treasure our money, comfort, ego, lifestyle,etc. more than each other, then we fail to love and sinfulness and evil can take root. And I think that holiness is attained when we learn to be happy in our selflessness.


  6. Lynn says:

    Most things without action are meaningless. At a recent Sci-fi convention Convergence, there was a panel about humor writing. The moderator said that hate is anger turned outward, depression is anger turned inward, and comedy is anger turned sideways. If indifference is lack of anything like a vaccume. Then wouldn’t emotion be a force that needs action to exist. Nature abhors a vaccume.


  7. John says:

    I was just thinking the opposite of love is self-serving…and here I found “Selfishness.” Yes, I do believe the opposite of love is serving yourself, your best interests without regard to others…always looking out for #1. Selfishness. Real love is looking out for others more than yourself. For there is one who said: To give your life for a friend, there is no greater love than this. Giving without regard to reward is the opposite of selfishness.


  8. Mandy says:

    Indifference for sure…. Love and hate both involve emotions and love for sure involves action. Indifference requires nothing… Good Blogger Jim…


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