When we love, we always risk hurting others and/or getting hurt. It’s an undeniable fact, a truth more universally acknowledged than a man with good fortune in want of a wife (as Austen would argue). It’s something that I see all my friends struggle with in some form. It is something that I’ve struggled with in my own way. It is somewhat embarrassing to bring my skeletons out, but by doing so, I can explain the realization that hit me today.
We’ve all been hurt by people in our lives. Family, friends, lovers… the earlier we experience the pain, the more it sticks to us, the more it forms our identity and shapes our beliefs. As humans we are pain-averse, and do our best to avoid getting hurt at all costs. Yet we may not realize that some of the habits we adapt as a result end up doing us much more harm than good. Instead of dealing with the pain properly, we’ll avoid, deny, reject, live out self-fulfilling prophecies at every opportunity. The scar becomes infected and taints us until it drives our thoughts and behaviors.
Although I already knew this, as I unearthed some of my grittier skeletons, I understood more why we want to avoid or run. Because that’s my M. O. I run. As of recent, I noticed how I was falling into a funk. Pep talk was growing increasingly hard and at the back of my head I did not understand why I was feeling this way. I even started thinking, “I will never risk doing that again. No way am I going to hurt myself again.” I wanted to protect myself, shield myself. I wanted to run far away, escape anywhere, even into my imagination, far from reality where no one could reach me. I did not realize why I was doing this, but I recognized that it was coming from a place of deep pain, rendered time and again by many whom I yielded my heart to, only to have it come back slashed to pieces.
But I assure you, this is not an “emo” post. I will not be singing “woe is me,” although I will admit, I was feeling that way for a while. Until I identified the pain, drew it out, and brought it to God. And a thought came to me… God does not call us to avoid pain. Because by avoiding, we are turning our backs on the biggest commandment that He has called us to do. To love deeply. A quote by C. S. Lewis came to me, one that essentially waxes poetic on how shutting out our hearts from the world will turn us into emotionless monsters… losing ability to feel and eventually to love. I’ve always wanted to run, but I realized at that moment that this is what life is about. To take these risks, to love, even if it means that we may give or get hurt. Because pain is not inherently evil like we think it is. It functions to let us know when something is wrong… or on occasion, when something is right. It is through pain that we learn what we could not in any other way. It is how God rouses us, challenges us, grows us.
Loving someone holds no guarantees that they will love us back. But we do it anyway, because it is not about them loving us back. It is simply about loving. Loving entails vulnerability, but that is what connects us to others. Loving spreads warmth, joy and peace, it gives hope even in times of darkness. By loving, we can become a light for others. We fulfill our nature. That is why loneliness hurts so much. Because we’re not meant to be forever alone, it is not built into our process. I’ve always been scared to let myself go, but I realize now that it’s okay. I am doing right by letting myself go. So instead of focusing on the pain, I see that if I push myself through it and have faith, the scars I have will eventually heal someday.