It dawned on me this morning, as I licked some old wounds (okay, and a couple new ones, too), that we have to seek a balance between accepting when others don’t (or can’t) love us and maintaining a healthy, loving perception of ourselves in spite of it.
Easy enough to say, but how do you go about it? There are two typical, natural reactions when people we like or admire clearly don’t like or admire us back–or at least, not as much as we would like. The first: responding with anger, and eventually dislike. We dislike those who spurn us. There’s a great line from some rom com I watched a couple years ago (a movie so memorable I can’t recall the title, the plot, or the characters, but this line definitely stuck with me): “I’m angry with you for not loving me.” The main character is actually monologuing at the camera about how he can’t say that to the woman he loves…even though that’s exactly what’s going on.
Okay, so it does seem a little silly to get all bent out of shape with another person for not loving us. Who do we think we are, anyway? So to avoid that ridiculous extreme, we fall into the other: these people don’t love me/notice me/whatever…and who can blame them, really?
If they don’t recognize my value, it’s only because there’s not a whole lot of value there to recognize in the first place.We’ll call this the Eeyore response: “You don’t hafta love me if you don’t want to.”
And this goes for any type of love. Maybe it’s the cool older cousins who never gave you the time of day back in middle and high school–and who still completely ignore you at family events (when they deign to attend them at all), because in their eyes you’ll always be that nerdy 11-year-old, wearing jeans about 20 years out of style and T-shirts three sizes too big.
Or the girls in the Bible study your mom signed you up for in 10th grade, because you’d just moved to a new town (again), and she wanted you to make friends. Great girls. Great study. Only problem was, those girls had known each other since grade school, and they just weren’t interested in making new friends.
Or the countless coworkers who barely notice you or your work (except, of course, when they need something).
How about that guy you were head over heels in love with in [insert year/month/week here], who didn’t even know who the heck you were?
Or even worse, the guys who did know who the heck you were–and just weren’t interested.
Perhaps worst of all, those once-upon-a-time friends who just stopped calling, without any apparent reason, and with no explanation. Maybe he started dating someone and just doesn’t have time for “just friends” anymore. Maybe she’s been really busy. Maybe you said something wrong. Or maybe…they finally figured out that you’re not really worth the time and effort, so they stopped reaching out.
Insert your own story and your own hurts. It all adds up to the same thing: anger and resentment, and that sneaking suspicion: “Maybe I’m not worth it after all.” It’s a double-edged sword, and it maims or kills charity in us. Why bother loving others when they’ll only hurt us? Why bother loving ourselves when we’re clearly not worth it?
Whatever the situation, whatever the reasons, we have to fight to stick to the high middle way: between hatred of others and hatred of ourselves…love. Love which is freedom. It’s freedom that looks like this:
Freedom: you just open yourself up and pour yourself out.
Freedom: you allow the other person to respond–or not–according to his own needs, his own wants, his own heart.
You do this because you know you have been loved first. You, who so often ignore, neglect, or even outright dislike the One who loves you, are loved constantly in spite of all that. Lent provides so many beautiful opportunities to reflect on how loved we are. And faced with all our weaknesses, we eventually have to realize and accept that we can offer only one response: we have to love as He loves. Without asking for anything back, we must hold nothing back.
“And if by chance, before this … Cross … your heart were to show repugnance… don’t give it consolations. And, filled with a noble compassion, when it asks for them, say to it slowly, as one speaking in confidence: ‘Heart: heart on the Cross! Heart on the Cross!'”