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The Love Language of Service and Your Parts

Jun 10, 2024

Dear Souls and Hearts Member,

On we go with the final love language that Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell describe in their 1997 book, The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively, which is service.  This reflection is the seventh in our series of love languages, children, and child like parts, starting on April 3, 2024 – the six previous reflections are available in our archive, but each reflection stands on its own.

What is loving service?

Chapman and Campbell connect back to the previous chapter in defining service: “Loving service is a gift, not a necessity, and is done freely, not under coercion.” [p. 98]. And this is where we need to start.

All love is a gift, the gift of self to another.  Relationality is essential to love, as Mother Teresa said: “Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is service.”

And the reason we love is not to get something back, but to follow the example of God, in His selfless gift.  Michael J. Graham, S.J. gives us the visual: “Service is what prayer looks like when it gets up off its knees and walks around in the world.”  In service, we love God by loving our neighbor:  ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40).

On this side of the eschaton, love requires sacrifice.  Perhaps not in every moment or in every instance, but often — as Chapman and Campbell make clear in this passage:

Acts of service are physically and emotionally demanding. Therefore, we parents must give attention to our own physical and emotional health. For physical health, we need balanced patterns of sleeping, eating, and exercising. For emotional health, self-understanding and a mutually supportive marital relationship are crucial. [p. 92]

To love, we must be grounded.  We must be capable if love, we must be fit to serve.  As Douglas Adams wrote, “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.

Becoming fit to serve

On the one hand Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”  And he’s right.  We retain, as long as we live, the capacity to choose to love in at least some way, however small it may be.  And we need to practice service, to the degree we can, not giving up because of our limitations. As  18th century Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke stated, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” And St. Francis de Sales stated, “There is nothing small in the service of God.”

At the same time, we human beings vary wildly from person to person and from day to day in our capacity to serve others well, and out of love; we should seek to become more consistent in our service to God and others.

Much of our capacity to serve others in love depends on how well we have received love – love from God, love from others, and love from ourselves. For some, especially with complex trauma histories involving abandonment and betrayal, being open and receptive to love from anyone can seem daunting.  I discussed this at length in episode 96 of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast titled I Am a Rock: How Trauma Hardens us Against Being Loved.  And it’s not just that those with abandonment and betrayal trauma can be tempted to give up on love; it gets worse — as I described in episode 97, titled Unlove of Self:  How Trauma Predisposes You to Self-Hatred and Indifference.

Faking it with children

Imagine a waiter who is starving and malnourished at work in a restaurant – how good will his service be to the customers?  How will he not be bitter in some way?  And how will that not be communicated to the diners?

Chapman and Campbell capture the experience of burden parents in this quote:

At times [parents] can even feel more like unpaid laborers than loving servants, put upon by spouse, children, and others. However, if they assume this attitude, it will communicate itself emotionally to the child, who will feel that he is receiving little love from the acts of service.” [p. 97].

This is a very important point, as parents often naively assume that if they just keep their bitterness toward their children inside, if they never utter a word about it, if they just shut their mouth and keep a stiff upper lip and endure in silence, that their children will be shielded from their anger, disappointment, criticism, and so on.

The fact is that children, especially young ones, are exquisitely sensitive to the feeling states and the emotionally charged attitudes of their parents (exceptions do exist, especially for neurodiverse kiddos).  Little children know what you are feeling, even if they can’t articulate it or if they don’t acknowledge it.  For little children, in their existential dependency on their parents, sensing their parents’ emotional states is a matter of survival.

So the idea that parents can just “fake it” with kids is an illusion, one that children will share in, out of necessity, if the parent imposes it on them, resulting in a parent-led conspiracy of silence. And the tragedy of that is that when parents will not even acknowledge the intensity of their own negative attitudes toward their children, little children will not bring it up – the topic becomes taboo, unspeakable, like an elephant in the room who cannot be acknowledged.

And the problem goes much deeper than Chapman and Campbell describe.  Here’s the critical issue:  So many parents struggle to provide loving service to their children because they have not yet received enough love themselves, they don’t love themselves well, and consequently they have difficulties giving themselves as a gift. 

That doesn’t mean that such parents haven’t been loved.  We know at a minimum that God has loved them with His infinite love, but so many parents (and others) reject God’s love as I described in IIC episode 99 Why We Catholics Reject God’s Love for Us and How to Embrace that Love.  We all know individuals who have been deeply loved by others, but for one reason or another, have rejected that love.  It happens so often.  And there are reasons for the rejection that I describe in IIC episode 99 – fear of vulnerability, fear of being hurt again, distrust, the list goes on.

Loving oneself is essential to loving your children (or anyone else)

Catholic Thomistic philosopher David M. Gallagher in his 1999 Acta Philosophica article “Thomas Aquinas on Self-Love as the Basis for Love of Others” (download the PDF here) argued that St. Thomas Aquinas held “that the very love of self inclines one to the love of others, that rather than being opposed they are essentially complimentary, with the love of self finding its fulfillment precisely in the love of others” [p. 23] and laid out his case based on the angelic doctor’s writings.  That article is very much worth reading, especially for those who are concerned about clarifying ordered from disordered self-love.

Catholic philosopher Anthony Flood agrees.  In his excellent 2018 book, The Metaphysical Foundations of Love: Aquinas on Participation, Unity, and Union, Flood writes:

Love of others in general and friendship in particular, for Aquinas, derives from a more basic source—namely, a person’s love of self. A person does and should love himself more than he loves other human beings. Aquinas is not endorsing selfishness and self-preoccupation. In fact, as we will discuss in the next section as well as in chapters 4 and 5, proper self-love functions as the antidote to selfishness and self-preoccupation. [p. 11].

The bottom line is that we must love ourselves in an ordered way to make a gift of ourselves.  We must love ourselves to give ourselves in service.  If we don’t love ourselves in a proper way, what kind of gift can we make of ourselves in service to God and others?  And so many Catholics do not love themselves well at all.  Many Catholics think it’s actually wrong to love themselves – there so much confusion on this topic, so much misunderstanding on the topic that I worked to clear up in IIC episode 98 titled Self-Love: What Catholics Need to Know.

To love and serve ourselves we need to love and serve our parts

If you have followed my content for a while, you’ll know that I emphasize that the human psyche is not just one homogeneous, monolithic “personality” – yes, there is a unity within you, but there is also a multiplicity within.  Like an orchestra is both one, but also many – one body of performers with a conductor, but also a multiplicity of musicians, each with his or her own unique instrument.  We each have an innermost self; we also have many parts which are distinct from the innermost self and from one another.

Parts feel like separate, independently operating personalities within us, each with own unique prominent needs, roles in our lives, emotions, body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, typical thoughts, intentions, desires, attitudes, impulses, interpersonal style, and world view. 

The multiplicity within us allows us to love ourselves – there’s no potential for self-love of any kind if we hold that our psyche is a homogenous, monolithic entity.  Your innermost self can love your parts, and not only that, your innermost self is a conduit or bridge by which your parts can receive love from God and others.  Internal Family Systems, ego state approaches, and other parts- and systems-based understanding of our psyches can help us follow the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and thus, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, help us love God and others more fully and deeply, with all of our being, with all of our parts.

But so many people don’t love their parts; rather they have parts within that hate other parts within, as I described in IIC episode 97, titled Unlove of Self:  How Trauma Predisposes You to Self-Hatred and Indifference.

There is an inner civil war going on in almost everyone, not just on the spiritual level, but also on the natural plane.

St. Paul described this inner civil war eloquently in Romans 7:15-20:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.

Parts of you  who are not in right relationship with your innermost self, can urge you, motivate you with their disordered desires to use sinful means in an attempt to fill their unmet attachment needs and integrity needs.  Your parts, in their limited vision and understanding, are seeking goods, but they are lesser goods, or goods taken out of the proper moral order.

Chapman and Campbell write that “As parents, we serve our children—but our primary motivation is not to please them. Our chief purpose is to do what is best.” [p. 92].

I argue along the same vein in working with our childlike parts.  In consider loving yourself in your multiplicity, you can consider what is best for all of you, what is ordered and loving for you in all your parts.  That may mean that you must frustrate some parts of you, but can you do that in love and patience, rather than in the bitterness and frustration of other parts of you in your inner civil war?

Because it’s this inner civil war, our own internal rebellion that spills out and leads us into conflict with other, as St. James noted in chapter 4, verse 1 of his letter:  Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?

St. James is right.  When we are fighting with others, when we are in conflict with children, we are often externalizing our own inner conflicts.  Why?

To love and serve others, we need to love and serve their parts

Because the parts of other people resonate with and activate our own parts.  You will generally reject and not love the part of another person that is similar to any part of yourself that you have rejected and not loved. I call a part of another that is like a part of me my part’s “counterpart.”  So the counterpart of my inner critic part is my neighbor’s inner critic.

Love of self derives from personal substantial unity. It is logically prior to love of neighbor and serves as a template for the latter. If a person loves himself rightly, he will love others rightly. On the other hand, if he relates to himself through a disordered love, he neither can relate to others rightly nor enter into a deep union with them. [p. ix]

Counterparts, because of their similarities, resonate with each other, like two tuning forks on the same frequency.  If you strike a tuning fork at Middle C so that it sings, and you hold it close to another tuning fork at Middle C, the second fork will start to vibrate in resonance (see this brief video for a demonstration).

So if you have an inner critic part who urges you to condemn and reject a shame-bearing part of you for fear of being incapacitated by self-loathing, your inner critic is also likely to impel you to condemn and reject shame-bearing parts of other people.  Why? When a shame-filled part in another person is front and center in the interpersonal relationship, your own shame-bearing part begins to sympathetically resonate with its counterpart.  Your inner critic feels threatened by your own shame – it desires to shut down the resonating experience of shame within you that is coming up because of the proximity of a shame-bearing part in the other person.

I give an example of how parts of me rejected a part of me that carried fear in an article titled Fearlessness vs. Courage (a downloadable PDF is here).  Those parts of me were threatened by fear – it wasn’t safe to feel fear in myself, so I experience strong impulses to reject the fear-bearing parts in my son after he was in a scary car accident.

Anthony Flood writes that, The ways in which an individual seeks the good for himself becomes the model or template for how he loves other persons—“we do unto them as we do unto ourselves.” Focusing on the role of the will in self-love, Aquinas maintains that the love of self forms the basis for all other acts of the will. [p. 13-14] and that “…proper self-love provides the appropriate template for knowing how to love the other—willing and seeking true goods—and thus sustaining friendship in the long term.” [p. 91]. 

Thus, learning to love ourselves, according to St. Thomas, is essential for learning to love others.  When we can love ourselves in an ordered way, we are in a much better position to love others, including our children.  We can then show the children how to love themselves; first by modeling appropriate self-love, and second by loving them in their parts, with an invitation for their innermost selves to love their own parts.

This opens the door for those children to love others in service as they grow and mature.  It takes time as patience, as Chapman and Campbell note:  It takes a long time for [children] to be able to give love through selfless acts of service. [p. 99].

Service as an invitation to serving

So we see that parent’s ordered love for themselves and for each other creates better conditions for loving their children in service.  And part of that love is to form them to freely love others in acts of service.  Chapman and Campbell write:  We serve our children; but as they are ready, we teach them how to serve themselves and then others. [p. 94].

Parents help their children along the road to mature love, a love that expresses itself in self-gift in service, helping them to learn to love.  Our authors state:  The ultimate purpose for acts of service to children is to help them emerge as mature adults who are able to give love to others through acts of service. [p. 98].

I invite you to check out this 13-minute experiential exercise titled Loving Service and your Parts – to help you, connect with your own parts about how they need to be loved, so you can love God more wholeheartedly and your neighbor as yourself in a good way.


The Resilient Catholics Community is accepting new application for 20 more days!

The Resilient Catholics Community is unique in that it provides a structured, year-long program to help you get to know, accept, understand, and love yourself in your parts, informed by Internal Family Systems and other parts and systems approaches and firmly grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person in a very experiential, heartfelt way.

In the RCC, we work to get to the natural roots of why it’s difficult for you to love others in their parts.  We focus on increasing your resilience in loving yourself and others through increasing your interior integration – your innermost self leading and guiding your whole system, all your parts, with your parts in right relationship with your innermost self, collaborating and cooperating in harmony.  As Flood writes, Unity with oneself forms the basis for the love of self. (p. 23).  In the RCC we seek that inner unity in a deliberate, structured way over the course of a year, together, on a pilgrimage to better human formation.

As we’ve seen the love of self is essential for being able to love your neighbor.  And, as Flood notes, The lack of interior integration, having disordered self-love, prevents a person from loving others with a true love of friendship. (p. 22).

The resulting internal conflict, the inner civil war that results from inner fragmentation, the unmet needs and cravings of our alienated parts, these keep us from loving our neighbor more effectively and invite us to act out our internal battles with other people’s parts, resulting in what St. James called out in 4:1  “Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?”

So many serious Catholics try to address natural level wounds, traumas, and human formation deficits using exclusively spiritual means. They pray novenas, they frequent the sacraments, they read dozens of books, they pray the Rosary, they frequent confession, they go to spiritual direction, and it doesn’t resolve the issues, any more than doing those things would resolve arterial bleeding from lacerations after a car crash (another natural-level problem).  Natural-level problems require solutions in the natural realm.  That’s what we offer in the RCC.

Every applicant to the RCC starts out with the PartsFinder Pro, our collection of 16 measures to help identify 9 to 15 of their parts, and how those parts are in conflict and alignment – it’s a jumpstart to help you get an idea of the topography of your inner world, to help you recognize and understand yourself so much better.  The PFP is not psychological assessment, it’s not a clinical service – we don’t offer any clinical services at Souls and Hearts, but the vast majority of our RCC applicants are surprised at how much they learn about themselves from the experience. Here are mock PFP reports for a man and a woman to give you a feel for what those are like.  Catholic adults who agree with what the Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church  can register for the RCC this link and you can find out more including stories of our members on our RCC landing page.

Tonight!  IIC podcast episode 140 is live at 7:30 PM Eastern

Episode 140 of the Interior Integration for Catholic podcast, titled Your Personal Formation:  Experiential Exercise and Q&A goes live tonight, June 10, 2024 from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM Eastern time on Zoom.  You can register here – join us as we work together with our parts on human formation and we debrief and discuss.

Last Monday, episode 139 of the IIC podcast, titled Personal Formation with Dr. Bob Schuchts (96 minutes) Video   Audio   PDF Transcript released, and it has been very popular.  Dr. Bob shares with us his decades of experience as a healer through his discussion of his four identities of love, the four dimensions of formation, the integration of personal formation in the work of the John Paul II Healing Center, the centrality of love in healing, the necessity of felt safety and trust, and the importance of distinguishing the natural from the spiritual, especially with parts and demons.

This episode is the latest in our IIC series on personal formation – check out all the episodes with links and descriptions in this downloadable PDF.  Please remember to like, subscribe, share the IIC podcast with others – that really helps us get the word out to those who have not yet discovered us in the noise of the internet.

Recollecting Your Parts for Reconciliation and the Eucharist – In-person event in Indy on July 17

As a preliminary event to the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress, before the Eucharistic Congress kicks off with the 7:00 PM Eucharistic Procession, Dr. Gerry and I are hosting a Souls and Hearts gathering for the pilgrims who can come early, and for those who are local, earlier in the afternoon, ending with a taco bar supper.

Find all the details and register on our Souls and Hearts’ landing page – it would be great if you can join us in Indy on July 17 from 1:30 to 6:00 PM for the half-day workshop titled Recollecting Your Parts in Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

I will be presenting on the Sacrament of Penance and the difficulties our parts can have with Confession.  Dr. Gerry will share on how to connect with our Lord more wholeheartedly, with all our parts in the Eucharist.  Each presentation will be followed by a 20-30 minute experiential exercise.  And as a special treat, Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB will also be present.

My personal spiritual director, Fr. Terrance Chartier FFI, will be in the confessional from 3:15 onward to hear confessions, especially from those who might have struggled with the sacrament.

Dr. Gerry and I will also be attending the Eucharistic Congress (we have media credentials for the IIC podcast episode we’ll be shooting there) so perhaps we will see you, if you can come.  Dr. Gerry will be signing copies of his book Litanies of the Heart at the Sophia Press table at some points during the Congress, so come to meet him in person.

Reminder about these reflections…

Just a reminder that these reflections are now semi-monthly, coming out twice per month on the second and fourth Mondays, instead of weekly on Wednesdays.

Praying for each other

Please keep us all in your prayers, especially the 70 or so applicants to the RCC (so far) who are working through their PartsFinder Pros and starting out on a huge adventure.  All our efforts would be useless without prayer and the interior life.  So please keep praying for all our Souls and Hearts staff and members.  Thank you.

In Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

P.S.  Find out more about the RCC on our landing page; and applying is not the same as joining.  We have a 19-minute experiential exercise to help you in the decisions making just about applying.  There’s a mutual discernment process after that that goes on for several weeks about joining, so you apply without joining; joining the RCC is a separate decision. The link to apply to join the RCC is here.

P.P.S.  And don’t forget – please consider making time to take in this 13-minute experiential exercise titled Loving Service and your Parts.

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