I’ve had a nasty sore throat lately. Excruciating swallowing, swollen tonsils and throat, fever, headache, body ache — you know the drill.
It’s a horrible illness, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.
What adds to the danger, though, is how contagious it can be. I can’t get near my children’s faces—which happens to be one of my favorite things to do. For as long as I’m contagious, no smooches for my littles.
That might be the worst thing of all.
But as I sat gazing—from a distance—at my sweet two-month-old daughter, I learned something about love. The normal way I would express my love for her is some snuggles and a kiss right on the mouth. But as badly as I wanted to love on her in that moment, I realized how horribly unloving it would be. That kiss could spell utter misery for her—or my other two children—for a week or more.
The most loving thing I could do was say “No” to the natural way my love would manifest itself.
Beyond that, I have to take all sorts of evasive actions to truly love my family during this sickness: extra hand-washings, labeling my drinking glass, washing towels after I use them. Those actions are loving: a kiss might feel loving, but it would be selfish and would sow seeds of misery.
And then, a thought experiment: What if I were contagiously sick for the rest of my life? Would there ever be a time when it would be right and loving for me to kiss my children? Absolutely not. The most loving thing would be to seek their good in other ways.
Our culture sanctifies any external expression of internal affection (except in the few remaining verboten arrangements), regardless of whether that expression is actually good for either person involved. Because we have no clear concept of “good,” we praise every kiss—even the one that is fundamentally harmful.
Maybe we could all use a good case of strep throat.