True Love Is Total Self-Giving 4

By Ryan Harkins, LC

In this heated debate over the use of contraceptives in general, I think it’s important to discover the real issue at hand: beyond the $30 a month it costs to have regular contraceptives, beyond the “rights” for women to do as they wish with their bodies, and even beyond breaking the system with new medical aid that frees women’s natural “suppression” of being pregnant every time they engage in the sexual act.

The issue here is not about any of that, but rather about the true meaning of both love and the engagement in the conjugal act.  For is this not what the whole debate is about?

Two people in love who want to express that love in the highest degree through a bodily union with one another, but at the same time disregard a fundamental element of a new life being born.  This is the “glory” of contraceptives: the ability to prevent that from happening.

It is here where it becomes so crucial to see more clearly who the human person is.  There have been many definitions given but the best one I’ve seen that conforms to man’s experience would be the following: A being with the capacity to know and love freely, called to a communion of other persons through a sincere gift of himself.

In this definition we not only see what the person can do and is called to, but we also see what true love really is: a sincere giving of oneself to another.  In the conjugal act this is what is happening, and this is what is so misunderstood.

When “boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy loves girl,” he naturally wants to express that love with a total giving of his self to her and she likewise to him in the same way.  It is a mutual self-giving where both agree to surrender themselves to the other.  The driving force behind all of this is the love they have for one another.  But love cannot be halfway, for if it is then it is not love.

When contraceptives are in play, love as expressed in sexual union is watered down to being only a satisfaction of one’s sexual urge, which becomes a sort of use of the other, not as a person with infinite value as expressed by bodily union, but as a thing just like any other with no intrinsic value at all.  To use something is not love.  Love is giving and where there is a block between that free, total, faithful, and fruitful self-giving, there is no love.

No one wants to ever be lied to.  We want the truth, and we want it to be as honest and sincere as possible.  The conjugal act with contraceptives amounts to a lie, because one is saying, hopefully with words, but especially with the body, that “I love you and want to give my whole person to you in love,” but in reality is holding something so wonderful and natural back: the beautiful mysterious miracle of procreation.

The essence of love within this act overflows into another life, another person with infinite value and worth.

Some may say that this is too hard; that it’s impossible to withhold these bodily aches and longings of “fulfillment” without preventing possible “birth consequences”. It may be difficult, but it is not impossible.

It is possible because God made us, man and woman, to love one another. Our natural ability to love freely, faithfully, totally, and fruitfully is a sign of our being made in the Creator’s image. True love is, therefore, the hallmark of human dignity.


  1. I couldn’t agree with you more when you say “true love is total giving of your whole persona to the one you love”. But whether contraceptives are preventing that total giving is a debatable point. Contraceptives aren’t an option anymore, they are a necessary thing. Else the only other way out is to make love only when u desire to procreate, which as we all know is impossible in today’s sex-crazed world. Nice one. Very thoughtful.

  2. Excellent point, I’m glad you mentioned it. However I would argue that where contraceptives are in play there is an unnatural block between the possibility of giving oneself totally to the other person precisely because it is not total, and it is not total because it is not natural. It’s an instrument available, whether the intention is to do so or not, to turn the other person into a means for one’s own sexual gratification and drives, which is not love.
    I know it’s not easy but precisely because it is not easy makes it to be true love. When one gives himself to the other totally, which naturally implies not using contraceptives, he is then proving his love for the other person. This does not mean however that every time a husband and wife engage in the marital act they have to desire a new born. No, they ought to always be open to life, but there is also a way to gauge when to have sex at the time when the woman is fertile, thus lessening the possibility of having a child. This is called Natural Family Planning (NFP).
    However, the case has been made that this is “too difficult and in the end it does the same as contraceptives so why not make life a whole lot simpler by just taking the contraceptives and keeping the correct intentions?” Once again it goes back to the dignity of the human person. Seen with infinite worth and value every person has a nature and thus has an end. To do something unnatural would be to go against one’s nature and therefore not directed to a final end. But to do something natural would be a help in order to achieve that end, thus natural family planning is the way given to help do that. We can also see here the beauty of the human body! God knew how difficult it would be if every time a man and woman engaged in the conjugal act the woman would end up pregnant so he created the human body in such a way for us to go through a natural process (NFP) in order to lessen the chances of having a baby while still at the same time being open to life if it were to happen.
    As far as the “too difficult” part goes, once again precisely because it’s difficult is what proves our love for the other person. This cannot be stressed enough. Further it is not impossible; thousands of couples have and still continue to practice NFP within their marriages while at the same time live very joyful and fulfilling lives with each other in that intimate union of life and love that marriage is.
    So therefore I would have to disagree with you about, first of all contraceptives being a “necessary thing” and it being “impossible in today’s sex-crazed world”. It is possible if one is willing to be true to himself, to his nature as a person with dignity, and true to the one that he loves by not being afraid to sacrifice a little so as to prove his true love. I hope this helps to clarify.

  3. Ryan,
    I’m so proud to be your sister. Thank you for speaking the truth and touching souls with your beautiful witness to life! Live free. I love you with all my heart!

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