It seems one of the oddest dichotomies. Life is full of strange and downright weird contradictions. At many times in our lives, at many points both important and not so important we find ourselves pulled in two completely opposite, but equally compelling directions. At times it seems that two entirely different people reside within us, each mesmerized and held captive by things completely contrary and contradictory; each aggressively vying for the thing that pulls them in opposite directions. Of all of these kinds of moments, there is one that seems more vexing than the rest . . . and love drives it.
We all want to love and be loved. There’s a whole lot that we can do without. As much as we’d love to do without love at times, we’re simply incapable of doing so. There’s something woven through the very core of our tapestries that desires to both expel love out and draw it in. We’d love to do it without fear or reservation. We’d love to be wrapped in it, immersed in it and enriched by it. We’d love to have it abound to the point that we drown ourselves in it because we know that such a drowning is nothing of dying but everything of living.
We know that a world submerged in love is a world safe, precisely balanced and warmly thoughtful. It would be a world centered on the good, protected from the bad, a place committed to refuge and stoic in its nurturance of all. We know that a world embedded in the giving and receiving of love would not be naive, it would be never be careless and it would always err in favor of risking for the good of others despite whatever the magnitude of the risk might be. It would cultivate the best of our humanity and patiently reshape that which is not.
We know that this kind of love between two people is nothing short of marvelous and mystical; something that brushes right up to the edge of our humanity and lavishly spills over into some place that we recognize we were designed to live but seldom discover, much less visit. Love is not an reality that disappoints. It’s not some idea of fanciful dreamers or misty-eyed idealists. It’s not something spun from the pens of secluded novelists or cooked up as some idea to offset the pain in our world. Rather, it’s the only thing powerful enough to endure when everything else does not. Love is a staunchly core reality that we rarely ever find. And it is in missing it that we experience disappointment.
Once Burnt, Twice Smart
Loving means risking. There’s no way around it. As with anything truly valuable in life, there’s always something of risk in attempting it. It seems that we should be able to love without the concurrent risk of being hurt in the loving. Yet, in the reality of the world that we live in, good things stand toe-to-toe with the bad.
So when we love, we choose to be vulnerable. In reality, there is no other choice. We must choose to open ourselves up because unless we do so, love has no place to go. Unless we do so, it will be held outside of us in some place where it can never ‘be and do’ all it was designed to ‘be and do.’ Unless we open up, we will hold it at bay and long for it while it’s right at our very fingertips.
So we eye it and contemplate it and thirst after it, but we don’t reach out for it. Typically we don’t reach out for it because we have before. And in doing so before we’ve been burned . . . badly burned. We’ve been hurt, or betrayed, or back-stabbed, or abandoned or any number of other cruel things that took our hopes of love and incinerated them into something of acidic smoke and charred ashes. “Once burnt, twice smart” as they say. It should not have been, but it was. We learn never to go there again because being hurt in love always seem to far, far outweigh the love that we originally sought.
Playing it Safe and Killing Love
Much like anything in life, we can play it safe. Playing it safe doesn’t mean that we will be safe. But there’s some sense that we can make it safer anyway. Yet we insulate ourselves from love. We want it, but the risk is too great. We thirst for it, but we can’t bring ourselves to risk for it. We face the terrible dichotomy of wanting something so desperately, but having that core thirst for love thwarted by all the fears that come with having loved before and having been burned.
So love goes wanting. We create thin and shallow replacements for it so as to reduce the risk of reaching for the real thing. We call a lot of things “love” that run the gamut from something that approximates love to things that have nothing to do with love at all. We cheat ourselves, we cheat others and we cheat this single, precious opportunity that we have to live and love.
Love, Again and Again . . .
We need to love. We must. We can do so realizing that all the grievous pain of loss will never offset the wonder of love. We can do so with wisdom, boundaries and respect. We can walk into love with our eyes clear rather than fogged by the fraudulent love we call infatuation. We can love responsibly so that it does not become abused and turn into something it was never meant to be. If we cherish love, respect it’s power, refuse to use it for our gain, always commit it’s benefits to others and are lavish in our expression of it, it will serve us well.
And so why risk loving? Because the risk will always be offset by love. Done well, the risk will be always be worth the risking. To forfeit love is to forfeit much. “To love or not to love?” That’s up to each of us individually. Your choice, whatever it might be, will impact you more than you may realize.