So often, so prevalently, the word “love” is thought to reflect intimate, romantic relationship. In reality, love is a much wider umbrella under which we are all supposed to live. God commands that we do all things in love.
The truth is, I haven’t always done things in love. Frankly, I haven’t even always tried to. There were times that I was content to be selfish, to lack the capacity to care any less about how my actions could affect others. It’s not that I wanted to intentionally hurt them, but doing so as collateral didn’t cause me to think twice. I remember, for instance, when dating for fun was the point… So then when I was “tired” of dating someone, I could just leave them standing alone in the rain. Where, then was the love umbrella? No, I don’t mean I had to love or be in love, but I could have been more tactful. Having fun is great, necessary even, but not at the expense of others.
The same goes for friendships, even acquaintances. I’ll start with the latter. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to throw someone you don’t really know under a bus. There’s no loyalty binding you to say, a ‘co’worker you don’t work directly with… But what does loyalty mean when it stands between friends? For me, it means loving them enough to do no harm. [[Ironically, “do no harm” is a major ethical standard I learned that stands above all others as a helping professional.]] That word, “harm”, plays a big role in the boundary conversation… And let me reiterate that doing no harm is not synonymous with being
agreeable all the time. It has a lot to do with being responsible for oneself, and accountable to others (ie friends).
It would seem that loss comes as a result of disloyalty, right? As intelligent as we may be, when we try to wrap our minds around loss, we try to find rational explanations for it, but the truth is, there isn’t always logical reasoning. When our friends, family members, or even strangers pass away, for example… We cannot explain the why. We can be comforted by a couple of things, like the certainty that our lost will spend eternity in heaven… And certainly the knowledge that they didn’t choose to leave us.
There’s an abundance of gray that peeks through the black and white when loss surfaces in love with friends, in relationships, in careers. When someone chooses to leave us behind, it hurts so much more. There’s nothing to comfort us knowing that there was another way, a way that kept us connected, which doesn’t necessarily mean happy, by the way. I’ve lost a number of friends over the years, for different reasons. Some hurt more than others. When I’m the driving force of separation, it’s always easier, for obvious reasons. But the common factor in them all was that I had to let go, completely. The truth is, if you are to know that reciprocity exists, you have to afford the other party freedom to choose. You have to also realize that love from a distance is love just the same. Love may exist even when physical loss persists.
We don’t always see the big picture, the best, healthiest picture, especially when it hurts us… But sometimes, minor hurts shield us from lifetime harm. We have to, finally, accept this as a real possibility, and embrace it on both sides of the glass. We have to be willing to be on the hurting side sometimes, to protect ourselves AND our loved ones. And when we are hurt, we have to realize when not to fight. Just as we desire to be free to make our own decisions, we must grant others autonomy to do the same (not that they need our permission).
Love, in its truest form, is a decision to give freely of ourselves, |period|.
P.S. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!