****Before I post the piece that I wrote back in February, I wanted to apologize for my unforseen hiatus! To those of you (all lovely three of you) who read this, I want you to know that my absence has not been for lack of inspiration or desire to continue sharing with you-- life just got busy (moving, deaths in the family, acquiring second jobs, etc.) However, life is always busy, and now that I have gotten a better handle on that, I can pick up where I left off- with, hopefully, a little more insight and far better syntax... and far fewer run-on sentences. And now, I give you the long-awaited and (albeit remotely) eagerly anticipated blog from February.
Dan: You think love is simple. You think the heart is like a diagram.
Larry: Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist, wrapped in blood!
I may not be a smart [woman], but I know what love is.
And I know what love is not.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with an acquaintance (though after our talk, I would call us friends) and talk about love. We had never had a deep or personal discussion before this, but I think we were both refreshed by the fact that our views about such a widely discussed -albeit misunderstood- topic were on the same wavelength- and that wavelength is most unlike what the rest of the world seems to ride. My acquaintance-turned-friend confided to me that, at the ripe old age of 22, she has never been in a serious relationship. She’s never found anyone that she felt was a really superb match for her. It’s not that her standards are ridiculous or that she’s never had feelings for anyone; it’s that if she can’t see a relationship lasting with a perspective-potential-would-be-boyfriend, she doesn’t just try him on for size. She doesn’t want to waste her, or anyone else’s, time. Some would argue that experience is the best teacher, and say that she should just date anyway, despite her better judgment. While it’s true that some people need to learn by experience (or do they?), there is another class of learner- one that I always wish I had been a part of. This class of learner are the kind that can learn from other people’s experiences; their knowledge is gained by wisdom through osmosis. This is not to say that people who learn this way never have their own experiences. My friend does not live in a bubble. I think it’s a sign of wisdom; if she sees someone make a mistake and suffer the consequences of said mistake, she’s not in a big rush to see what kind of a toll making that same mistake would take on her. If she observes other people’s mistakes and stumbles, she does not feel the need to do it herself “just to make sure.”
Honestly, I haven’t met many other people like that. Most of the people I know are like me; regardless of what others tell us and the horror stories we hear, we still need to go out and test the electric fences for ourselves. Yep, we’re real intellects, my clansmen and I. We keep pushing the button, even after it’s failed and even after (especially after) we’ve already heard “I told you so.” In my situation, there was certainly no lack of good advice or people I could have learned from in my life. I have wonderful folks, and I had the best mentor in the world when I was a young teen. Despite the sage advice, at a certain point, I was left to follow these lessons in my own pride and conceit- and then, when I thought I had it all under control, I stumbled and did all the things that I had been thoroughly warned about. I feel like I fell even farther, for how puffed up I had become; thinking that getting wise counsel somehow made me an untouchable figurine atop a marble pedestal. Yes, I fell hard...or did I jump?
At the time, I really felt that I had to do those things- to learn the hard way. Now, in retrospect, I know I didn’t need to. I didn’t need to touch the stove to learn that it burned. Why did I, then? I could cop out here, and say that it was my human nature (“I’m a scorpion, it’s what I do”), and that would actually be mostly accurate. I could blame it on the Devil. I could lie and say that I didn’t get enough good advice, I wasn’t hugged enough (or too much), but all that would be a load of bollocks. Part of it was that, no matter how much advice you’re given, it’s a whole different ball game when you’re confronted with real-life situations, instead of second-hand scenarios. When it’s you in the spotlight, needing to make a decision, you find out what really motivates you and where your heart really lies. What motivates us changes over the years (or, at least, it should.) What motivates you when you’re a selfish leach of a bloodsucking teenager shouldn’t be the same thing/things that motivate you as you mature and learn and grow and all that jazz. And certainly, one of the things that should most definitely change is your views and opinions about love.
When you’re a child, it’s natural to understand love as a selfish thing. Children are naturally selfish and dependent, it’s a part of their survival. As you grow up and experience the bonds with family and friends, you learn that there’s a different side to it: you are built to love as well as be loved. But, instead of coming to a healthy view on the gift of love and what it really means, most people seem to jump from the selfish love of their childhood into believing that they are not deserving of real love and take whatever is offered to them- which is usually a mediocre photocopy of the real thing. Pair that with someone that still holds onto love like a child with a toy, and you get the picture: a girl/guy who doesn’t believe they are worthy of love at the mercy of someone who toys with their emotions and takes all the love they require while giving nothing in return, unless it’s convenient for them. I see it all the time, I’m sure you do too. So what are we supposed to do? What is real love or what does it look like?
Love is action, love is sacrifice. There’s no neat and tidy way of explaining how you know real love when you see it. Personally, I find it a lot easier to identify the counterfeits. That being said, there is one, brief, summary of love’s attributes that I will share with you now. Regardless of personal creed or religion, the most concise and honest view of love I have ever understood is this:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails ...” 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a
Even though it’s hard to boil love down to words and sentences, I believe that that verse gives us a good picture to start with. It’s a completely different picture of love than the one the rest of the world gives us; it’s unselfish, it’s humble, and it’s honest. I still don’t fully understand all this, I’m still learning. Matt is teaching me, and he is kind and patient. I certainly believe that there are people, not necessarily just our lovers and romantic interests, but our family and our platonic friends who really love us can teach us what love really is.
I don’t think my friend is wrong about holding on to herself until she has someone safe to hold onto her. And I don’t think we should be so quick to disregard the opinions of people who don’t have all the same experiences as we do. I think my friend has a clearer picture of what love is than a lot of people out there- people that have been in many relationships, who are still accepting these mediocre photocopies of love and thinking that it’s enough. It isn’t enough, and it never will be. We were designed to love and be loved, and I don’t think the truth of that is hidden from us- but we need to stop fooling ourselves and lying to each other before we can be free to experience it.