Love like you’ve never been hurt!
Ha! This is one of those statements that sounds so super annoying and denialist. Like, if you’ve ever been hurt, you’ll agree that the immediate and visceral reaction to this statement is the deepest kind of eye roll you can execute. Like, please. Eye roll, eye roll, eye roll…then add a cutting side eye. What witchcraft is this? Why is my pain and my experience being minimized? Momma didn’t raise no fool. I get hurt, I become a lesser/meaner/worser version of myself. I stop giving people the benefit of the doubt, I shut down my ability to be gracious and inevitably EVERYBODY always proves me right (Duh. They will because no one is perfect. I mean we can even be offended by God. But we’re not there right now) and that justifies my “loving” and living like I have been hurt. Yeah. That’s pretty much how that works after you’ve been hurt.
But then what? Then what happens when you’re in your own little closed off world and you’re bitter and yet you still want love but can’t receive love because…you’ve been hurt. Do you just become one of those deeply resentful people everybody avoids or pities? Well, I think the answer to that really lies in your ability to “work through” this minefield. If you want to love again…both to give and receive it, you have to do “the work”. You have to do the mental work of separating and thinking through the specific (what happened to you) and the universal (how life, love and people work). And to be clear, I am referring to being hurt across the relationship spectrum. Family, friends and lovers. All those relationships can damage, disappoint and cut us deeply. I’m actually reminded of an India.Arie song (She’s a super, super fave of mine. Don’t sleep on that woman. Her lyricism is too dope. She’s a healer of the deep seated issues of the heart called to minister through music. But her voice? Goosepbumps. Goosebumps. The perfect vehicle for her calling. Anyhoo, let’s focus here miss g.) whose lyrics contain the lines, “One shot to your heart without breaking your skin. No one has the power to hurt you like your kin”. Yeah…that’s family. In another verse she sings, “One shot to your heart without breaking your skin. No one has the power to hurt you like your friends”. And that whole song, Get It Together, is about healing from the pain that’s been inflicted on us by those whom we love and trusted with our hearts. Listen to it if you care.
So, the difficult part. The how. The how to do that work. I have struggled to articulate this for the blog. But I will try do it as simply and as briefly as possible. There are many variables to be considered here. But to start, I believe that if you’re even considering that you do want to overcome your pain, hurt or offense, you have that kind of heart that I call a brave heart. Many people just lie to themselves and call themselves ‘strong’ for shutting down after pain. Au contraire – that’s cowardice. But it’s those that, even with great trepidation, consider how they may open themselves to trusting and experiencing love again after great pain and loss. And so congratulations, brave heart. You aren’t a fool, or desperate. You’re simply yearning and gravitating towards what is the essence of why humans even exist in the first place (love) and you’re seeking to do the thing the Creator called us to do (love one another). So kudos to you.
The first thing to work through is the incident(s). As you dissect, you arrive at certain conclusions. But you need to do this with the help of an objective party. How did it happen? Why did it happen? These answers will help you understand motives, shortcomings and the role that each party played in the incident. Sometimes it’s all the other party. Like if you were molested or sexually assaulted. And the nature of the incident and the circumstances surrounding it will determine whether that specific relationship even needs salvaging. Sometimes, the best thing to do is walk away. Because some people are just bad. It’s unpleasant to say this, but it is true. Some people are bad and redeeming them is not your responsibility. Even if they are family. In such cases, the best (or most altruistic) thing you can do is to pray for them and keep it moving. But then the takeaway ought to be “Not everyone is this person who hurt me”. And that is then the active work…of living out your choice to not be bitter. To accept what happened but determine to not let it shape you into a twisted and loveless version of yourself. There’s work involved there. Allowing yourself to go through the stages – anger, disappointment (with yourself, others or even God), devastation, resignation, acceptance and forgiving (often with no apology received). You may also have to forgive yourself. This is where you can begin to move forward not as a victim but an overcomer. Being there allows you to set the right boundaries for relationship and also creates the basis on which you can navigate future relationships without prejudice, bias or mistrust. That means that you always give people the benefit of the doubt and generously extend grace to them when they falter. But more on the latter later.
Before getting to that place where we have to do this hard work of giving people the benefit of the doubt and showing grace, let’s back up to another important action. Choosing well. Sometimes you run into satan’s spawn in your life because you do not choose well. And that’s on you. You must unlearn the dangerous psychological patterns that lead you to choose destructive people. And if you’re someone that didn’t get good examples of what love, care and affection look like, you’re a good candidate for therapy. That is where you will get to the bottom of why you choose so badly and good psychological intervention can help you develop the right selection criteria for who you let into your life. And some of these bad patterns we use to choose people can be so subtle/sublime and we may never know that they’re operating so deeply and powerfully within us at our most subconscious level until we do the work of turning in and intentionally rummaging through what’s really going on inside of us. And this can take years, but I believe that when you give yourself over intentionally to a process such as therapy, it needn’t take years…because you are already aware of some fault and are willingly presenting yourself to uncover, name and heal from it.
For me, my healing came from locating my worth, existence and personhood in God. Knowing whose I am gave me a solid and firm foundation and framework for what was acceptable and what wasn’t. So if people came into my life and just didn’t measure up to the Godly standards of integrity, honesty and selflessness that the biblical canon exemplifies, then no. And it’s difficult because initially, you feel like you’re constantly losing people. It’s of course not what you’re used to, but right and correct standards are the principal way to ensure that you will reduce your chances of being hurt in the first place. But eventually, it becomes your nature and it no longer feels like losing when you simply close the door on certain people. It’s just no biggie. And also, you less and less come into contact with people who don’t meet your standards. I don’t know how…but maybe that thing of attracting what’s deep inside you is true. So if you’re all whole, self-loved up and just generally not about the BS, BS tends to not be drawn to you. Try it. I’m a living testimony, hahaha!
So the sh*t thing is that even when you’re in healthy and right relationships, people will still hurt you. Y’all knew that was coming right? Y’all had to have known it was coming because I alluded to it in the first and second paragraphs and also because “Tis life”. Even the people who love us most will hurt us. Sometimes intentionally, but mostly inadvertently. The thing is to know that nobody is perfect. I want to focus on the former because the latter has gotten a lot of attention. Sometimes in love, we all get a little vindictive and may want to inflict just a little bit of pain on someone because we feel slighted by them. That doesn’t make us bad. It just makes us human. And I am writing this because it is true. It is not that people who love us only hurt us inadvertently. We all be so petty at times. Maybe you won’t pick up a friend’s call there and then because she irritated you the other day. And you know she needs your help. Like, it’s not life and death. Just something minor…and you know her not being able to reach you will frustrate her. Then you’ll be even. Those are things that we all do. They are acceptable/forgivable human shortcomings…and the caveat is we ought to be aware of them in ourselves and constantly work at becoming better. In Christianese, we call that sanctification. Google it. But the thing is, those kinds of shortcomings are what is meant by love like you’ve never been hurt. It means that even if it often feels uncomfortable (‘it’ being human relationshipping), stay and work through it…because no one is perfect; but the right people, the people who love you, are worth feeling that tinge of burn for. Because they will also go through it for you, where you are the perpetrator.
Now, guys. I am NOT advocating that people stay and normalize some consistently bad behaviour or psychopathic tendencies. Those people need help. You can choose to see them through it or not. But the tinge of burn I’m referring to feels different from being abused, neglected or stripped of your worth. And if you have the correct internal compass and gauge for love, you will know when love is not being served. That would ordinarily also be your cue to leave. But I also know that this life is not black and white and straight-forward. And for me, someone that struggles to operate in the grey, that’s been difficult to accept. Because my cut-off game is so strong now, I really have to slow down when I reach that point with someone and ask whether it is the right thing to do. I know of people in bad marriages whom God has specifically told to stay put. Ja…and things of the spiritual realm are tricksy (Not a spelling error btw. Just one of many words I made up on the spot). God’s ways aren’t ours…and that’s partly why I said above, “you can choose to see them through it or not”. The determiner is your spiritual conviction on the matter. And you want to confer with trusted spiritual confidantes too. Not just only what you believe you hear from God. Test that word. And this usually mostly applies to marriage and maybe also someone like your mother…cos sometime you gotta cut your momma off too if she trifling, LOL! I’m laughing and adding humour but it’s serious.
The purpose of loving like you’ve never been hurt isn’t to just expose you to even more hurt. No. It’s to develop grace, compassion and understanding. Understanding because other people are simply reflections of ourselves. As in, you are as human as other folks are. And so if you can see that other people fall short, then you best believe that your sh*t often stinks too. Cos sometimes, we become so full of ourselves that we start to think our sh*t don’t stink and we’re perfect. Hahaha! LOOOL! Everybody’s got something they need to check. And speaking of, I’m reminded of ANOTHER India.Arie song! The song, Back to the Middle, tells about a young woman that’s recently discovered her voice and confidence and is using it boldly. It’s kind of like when you finally get your internal love canon right and you no longer accept riff raff or half-baked efforts in relationships. The one line in particular that comes to mind is, “And now that she’s been introduced to confidence, she doesn’t see that she is bordering on arrogance. When will she learn to come back to the middle?”. Later on in the songs, India.Arie sings:
You gotta take the good with the bad And you might hit the wall Sometimes you’ll fly and sometimes you will fall There ain’t no way to avoid the pain But it’s getting burned, that’s how you will learn To come back to the middle Needing to protect yourself Now that is just a part of life If you let your fears keep you from flying You will never reach your height To get to the top you must come back to the middle
And so knowing this (that you are equally flawed and thus also in need of grace) allows us to love each other through the worst versions of ourselves. And for God, that’s important. He has instructed us to love one another…even to the extent of loving our enemies. So we can’t be caught up in having ‘small hearts’. No. Expand that heart and learn to love even when it hurts or is somewhat uncomfortable. Also, the lesson is that God loved us even when we were sinners, sending His Son for our redemption. So we are to do the same. Because well, the work of sanctification (did you Google it?) is that it functions to make us increasingly like God in character. Matthew 5:48 says “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”. The other, most beautiful (imo) lesson is that love is actually the greatest of them all. It makes the impossible possible. It can stretch and strengthen us in the places we’re afraid to expose because we’ve been hurt there before. It can turn an almost-scorned, bitter unbeliever in love into a most loving and gracious soul. Love is active in that each time you choose to walk in it, it has that magic quality of transforming you. And that’s why God calls Himself love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love never fails. Love never gives up.
A “friend” of mine recently said something interesting to me. He said, “G, you have this thing of characterizing people by the last bad deed they committed against you, consequently overshadowing every good thing you know and believe about them.” Ahhhhhhhhh…I scrome. And laughed. Uncomfortably. Because I had been read for filth by someone I was trying to “judge” for a most irritating shortcoming they seem to not have shaken. Much to my chagrin of course. I have to say that that conversation has stayed with me. Because in comparison to me, this person has this ah-mazing ability of ALWAYS seeing me for my bestest, highest self…even when I am in the mud doing some despicable stuff character-wise. They always see the best of/in me. They’ll call me out no doubt, but it NEVER colours their opinion or belief about me. They lead with being driven and informed by that goodness within me in interacting with me, always. How dope is that? I want to love like that. Love people like I believe that they’re pure and beautiful human beings at their core. Because, the gag is…they are. And so who am I to castigate God’s children?