Chaplain's Corner


  • Larry Hirst, Author
  • Retired Chaplain, Bethesda Place

The final words of 1 Corinthians 13 make a remarkable pronouncement “…the greatest of these (faith, hope and love) is love.” If you have been to a wedding you have probably heard this passage read. It is known as the “Love Chapter” of the Bible as it describes true love.

A couple of weeks ago it was Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t find Canadian numbers but in the US last year just over 18 billion dollars were spent on Valentine’s Day. If we extrapolate this for the Canadian context and because our population is about 10% of the US population, we might estimate that Canadian’s might have spent about 1.8 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day. That is a lot of money, a significant investment and I wonder, “Is the investment worth it?”

Whoa! Before you think me some Valentine’s Day humbug, I think it is an honest question. Part of our spirituality as human beings is a deep and almost unquenchable longing to be loved and cherished. We invest lots of time and money addressing that longing. It is only fair to ask, “Is the investment worth it?”

Well, the first thing we need to admit is that the love described in 1 Corinthians 13, the love we so deeply long for and the love to which Valentine’s Day marketers appeal are two very different things. So the spending on Valentine’s Day only on rare occasions is intended to address this deep spiritual longing. Candy, flowers, restaurant dinners and jewelry may be nice, but most of the time they have little or no impact on that deep longing to be loved and cherished, to be treated with sensitive and selfless regard.

Much of the time the money spent is motivated by a desire not to find oneself in the “dog house”, to live up to the other’s expectations, or to simply do what is expected. You see, the kind of love we spiritually long for, the love described in this popular wedding reading is patient, kind, not envious, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, doesn’t delight in evil but delights in the truth. This kind of love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. This kind of love is not a one day a year love, it is an everyday love.

It is described elsewhere in these words, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves. You should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

In my work people are very vulnerable and often speak openly about things they have never spoken of to anyone else. Part of the dynamic is that to most I am a total stranger and the other part of the dynamic is the fact that by law I am obligated to confidentiality. I am seen as a safe person, I won’t “let the cat out of the bag”. In many of these conversations people share how unloved they have felt over the years, how dissatisfying their marriages are or were, how let down they feel by their children, whom they thought would love and care for them in their old age.

This is not surprising, for it is my guess from my years of working with people, that the vast majority of people come to the end of their lives feel as if they have never been well loved. Many have come to terms with this, others are still wounded and feel the injury of being unloved acutely. There isn’t much I can do about a life time of feeling unloved, but in that moment I can love that person unconditionally. I can even if only for a moment be patient, kind, not envious, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, a record keeper of no wrongs, who doesn’t delight in evil but delights in the truth. I can love and so can you.

Chaplain's Corner was written by Bethesda Place now retired chaplain Larry Hirst. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer and do not represent the views or opinions of people, institutions or organizations that the writer may have been associated with professionally.