Scary Selflessness

8:25 AM

I suppose it's going out on a limb to say I'm a selfless person, but occasionally, I do try. It frustrates me how hard really loving people is -- not the mushy-goopy-sweetsie-poo love. That's easy. In fact, I wonder if that romantic side of love isn't love: one second I'll be sweet and romantic, the next I'll be rage-quitting the relationship. I think the Hulk is an apt description of my self-control in those moments.

Comparison courtesy of Mom's Night Out.
No, the mushy-goopy-sweetsie-poo moments make me feel good. Ego-boosters. Aww, he likes me enough to hold my hand and look in my eyes and lie about my weight. Romance never was hard for me. It gets instant results.

Real love is hard. Like, hard in all the wrong places. Hard as in even though I really love people, especially my boyfriend, I hate loving. I just realized the other day why love, sacrificial love, is so hard -- at least for me. I might have just solved the epidemic divorce problem.

With loving other people -- other people, people you're not particularly close to, people whose immaturity prevents them from ever repaying your sacrifices -- the struggle in love is learning to care for annoying, uninteresting people even though you really get nothing out of it. It's just straight up a battle against selfishness and apathy: Do I really need to pay attention when she tells me the exact same problem in more detail again for the five hundred and second time? (My roommate knows the pain.) I can hear Jesus' reply: "Yes, though she bore you to death for the five hundred and second time, still shall you love her." With loving enemies, it's a battle for grace and forgiveness to win out. And with loved ones -- spouses, parents, siblings, significant others, maybe even best friends -- the struggle is both of those things (sometimes) magnified to a bigger degree: you actually need each other. As in, you actually both are supposed to get something out of that relationship. They're mutually supportive relationships that give you an IV to the love of God so that you can go out and love annoying, uninteresting, and hateful people. Sounds wonderful, right?

God throws in a twist: you've got to love those people sacrificially too.

Which sounds easy at first. Put the needs of the one who loves me first? Why, of course! Of course I will love my boyfriend selflessly. Of course I will serve the needs of my parents. That's just natural. It's part of the relationship.

It isn't natural. At all. I learned the hard way multiple times. It isn't natural because for some reason, not all of those kindred relationships where our heartstrings are knotted together work out in my favor. Nothing stings worse than a loved one breaking your heart. Jealousy, anger, misunderstanding, refusal to forgive. When they've sinned against me, the last thing I want to do is love sacrificially. The last thing I want to do is say, "Here, take my heart again and break it."

It's not a matter of selfishness, really. It's a matter of survival. If the people who love me don't meet my very human, very necessary needs, then I'm stuck. I still need those needs met, and now I have nowhere to go.

For me, there's only one thing left to do: take matters into my own hands and look out for myself.

So many times, it feels like close relationships turn into boxing rings. I cry foul, and the referee looks the other way. Except there isn't a referee in these sorts of boxing rings. It's just me and the person I love, duking it out. Love sacrificially? I can't when I'm getting knocked down by the person who's supposed to be lifting me up.

I punch back. (Verbally, actually, because if I started swinging my fists, intimidating isn't the first word that comes to mind.) I fear that if I let them get away with this cruelty, this misunderstanding, this injustice against me, they'll get into this rut of trampling all over me. They'll never care about me again in the way I need. Our relationship will become like a dried up well -- Here once lay the love that reminded Bailey most of God. 

For some reason, I think that being verbally abusive or breaking down or going icy quiet will convince my loved one to keep loving me. I don't look particularly attractive when experiencing negative emotions. In fact, I don't think I'm thinking at that moment of being attractive. I'm not even considering the person's feelings at the time -- I'm considering my own, and weighing how to beat them back into position so that they'll love me again. At that point, it doesn't feel like the relationship is whole anymore. It's now fragmented, and I'm just snatching at bits and pieces I want to keep.

Look, I want to be loved. It's a huge drive in me -- in everyone. Loving someone sacrificially means that my need to be loved gets shifted to backburner...and for how long? How do I know if my needs will be met again if I'm gentle, respectful, and selfless? How do I know they won't hurt me again if I keep loving them sacrificially? How do I know this relationship will still last if I give up fighting for my rights? How can I even hope they'll stop the destructive behavior and the annoying habits if I don't constantly correct them?

I can't know. I can't. That's what loving sacrificially entails: a total surrender of rights. A surrender of rights to be in control, to be safe from harm, to be loved, even. That's why selflessness is scary. And that's why we're called to do it -- because so few people even dare love that way.

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  1. This post was incredible. and wise, in the words and in the way you communicated them.

    I'm looking forward to the next one. :)

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