“Like Augustine before him, Bernard believed that we always love but we do not always love properly. Since love orders desire, the way we love directly influences how we attempt to satisfy our fundamental longings.”

Bernard identified twelve steps for declining into pride and twelve ascending to humility. The steps of decline begin with our contempt for our neighbor through those who are over us to our contempt for God. The steps of ascension begin as we learn to love our neighbor through respect for those over us to a full understanding of our life with God. Beebe and Foster reconize “Bernard’s overarching concern is to help us recognize that when we fail to love our neighbor we ultimately fail to love God.”
In his work On Loving God, Bernard identifies four levels of love. The first level is self-love. The second level is loving God for our own sake. Here, the primary motivation is self-preservation. In the third stage, we learn to love God for God’s sake. That is, we love God for who God is. In the fourth stage we learn to love self for God’s sake. We see ourselves as God sees and loves us.