Good for another is dependent on the other.

from Works of Love by Søren Kierkegaard nonfiction ~3 min read

There is nothing, nothing at all, that cannot be done or said in such a way that it becomes upbuilding, but whatever it is, if it is upbuilding, then love is present. Thus the admonition, just where love itself admits the difficulty of giving a specific rule, says, “Do everything for upbuilding.” It could just as well have said, “Do everything in love,” and it would have said the very same thing. One person can do exactly the opposite of what another person does, but if each one does the opposite—in love—the opposite becomes upbuilding. There is no word in the language that in itself is upbuilding, and there is no word in the language that cannot be said in an upbuilding way and become upbuilding if love is present. Thus it is so very far from being the case that the upbuilding would be something that is an excellence of a few gifted individuals, similar to brains, literary talent, beauty, and the like (alas, this is just an unloving and divisive error!) that on the contrary it is the very opposite—every human being by his life, by his conduct, by his behavior in everyday affairs, by his association with his peers, by his words, his remarks, should and could build up and would do it if love were really present in him.


The things of this world, however glorious they are and however acclaimed, are without love and therefore are not upbuilding; the most insignificant word, the slightest action with love or in love is upbuilding. Therefore knowledge puffs up. Yet knowledge and the communication of knowledge can indeed also be upbuilding, but if they are, then it is because love is present. To commend oneself hardly seems upbuilding, and yet this, too, can be upbuilding. Does not Paul at times do it? But he does it in love and therefore, as he himself says, “for upbuilding.” A discourse about what can be upbuilding would therefore be the most interminable discourse of all discourses, inasmuch as everything can be that; it would be the most interminable discourse, just as it is the most grievous charge that can be made against the world—that we see and hear so little that is upbuilding. If it is rare to see riches, it makes no difference; we wish and prefer to see ordinary prosperity. If it is rare to see a masterpiece, in a certain sense it makes no difference, and to the majority of people it makes no difference. Not so with the upbuilding. At every moment there lives this countless throng of people; it is possible that everything that any human being undertakes, everything that any human being says, can be upbuilding—and yet it is very rare to see or hear anything upbuilding!


The opposite of building up is tearing down. This contrast never appears more clearly than when the theme of the discourse is that love builds up, for in whatever other connection building up is discussed, it still has a similarity to tearing down—that it is doing something to someone else. But when the one who loves builds up, it is the very opposite of tearing down, because the one who loves does something to himself—he presupposes that love is present in the other person—which certainly is the very opposite of doing something to the other person. To tear down satisfies the sensate person only all too easily; to build up in the sense of doing something to the other person can also satisfy the sensate, but to build up by conquering oneself satisfies only love; yet this is the only way to build up. But in the well-intentioned zeal to tear down and to build up we forget that ultimately no human being is capable of laying the ground of love in the other person.[1]

  1. Similar to Dostoevsky's idea that people need only "love others as yourself" to solve all the world's problems, yet to love is dependent on a person and therefore not attributable to rules. ↩︎

—Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, p. -1