If you couldn’t answer with your job, how would you answer the question “what do you do?”
On any given day, my answer to this question would probably be a great number of things. But not too long ago, I blogged about a deep desire that I felt God has placed on my heart, especially in light of the tragedies that have happened in these two months. Before that, I probably would have said that I write, I dance, I laugh, I talk. Lately, I’m realizing that there’s a bigger purpose above having a job and career. Aside from being a student and a writer, my main purpose is to love.
I’m still learning a lot about what “love” as a verb actually is; it’s not just about how much you do it, but how well. There is so much negative rhetoric out there in regards to caring about other people, the most famous adage being “the only people you need in your life are the ones who prove that they need you in theirs.” Personally, there are some gray areas in that line of thinking: what kind of proof does it refer to? Is it fair to ask anyone to prove anything? What is the difference between wanting a person to “show up” for you and having expectations that are just too high?
We all want unconditional love, yet when the time calls for it, we’re often unwilling to be the ones to give it ourselves. And while there definitely should be a form of meeting halfway, it’s though we treat love as a result or a reward for something. We shouldn’t need all these specific reasons to treat others with kindness and compassion. When looking at the bigger picture, that’s what love is: kindness, compassion, forgiveness (even if they don’t “deserve” it), patience, humility, and so on. Even more, it’s about putting these traits into action regardless of who the person is or what place they have in your life.
That being said, it is important to have boundaries; not in the ways that you treat people, but in the context of the relationship and maybe even the environment that you’re in. From my own experiences, I now understand that there are those who I’m not meant to be best friends with. I’m very selective about who I confide in and who I share my history with. There is always the possibility of being taken advantage of by anybody, but it’s more a question of who will empathize and who won’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t interact; it’s nice having people to just have fun with and not get into the tough stuff that goes on in our lives. Or maybe it’s just giving that person a hug for five minutes whenever we run into each other around town. It varies, but the point is that not every relationship has to be the all-or-nothing deal.
Boundaries become blurry when you and/or another is dealing with very personal issues. I have been on both sides of the fence, neither of which can be pretty. As I’ve gone through my late teens and early twenties, I’ve developed a keen sense of when someone is in the thick of extreme brokenness, especially when they’re running away from it. When they’re labeled as “bad” or an idiot by the rest of the bunch, I want to get to know them even more. Part of it is because I know what it’s like to be misunderstood, and because I do have somewhat of a selfish desire to be needed and useful; that is, I want to take care of others instead of it always being the other way around.
It is possible to be a part of another’s healing process, and vice versa; the thing to remember is that it’s not up to you to be the one to orchestrate it. Support them, listen to them, and just be present. But when you feel the need to don a superhero cape, that’s when you should take a step back. No one is immune to getting sucked in to a bad situation and being crushed by it.
What the ones who hurt you over and over again? I guess it really depends on the circumstances; A lot of (but not all) college students tend to be kind of selfish; they do what they want and don’t pay much attention to how it’s affecting the people around them. It also just might be part of how they are; I have friends who don’t always call me back and let me know what’s going on when we have something planned. I have friends who are often late to those kinds of get-togethers or outings, or go off on their own once they have a few drinks. It used to both me a lot, and there are occasions where it still does.
Again, it’s not completely black and white, and it’s up to the individual to decide what they can and can’t take in regards to another’s actions. While I do believe in going to that person and being honest if something is really bothering me, I also understand that I have this habit of taking a situation too personally. We all want to surround ourselves with friends who aren’t going to hurt us or make mistakes, but that just doesn’t happen.
And that’s where love truly shines; not when someone is at there absolute best, but at their worst, in whatever case that may be. Should you put up with them if they constantly walk all over you? No. But it doesn’t grow unless the relationship gets a little rain, or even a thunderstorm.
The main aspect isn’t why, but how. I’ve learned that when you don’t know where to start, it’s best to start small. I’ve been trying to walk around without my ipod so that I can actually say hello to people as I pass them by. I’m writing letters both to good friends and friends that I’ve lost touch with. I like sending out “thinking of you” texts. My favorite thing to do is to hug someone really tight and make it last for about ten seconds or so, because love doesn’t always need words to be given, experienced, or felt.
It might not seem like a whole lot, and there are instances where I feel like I could be doing better. But when you think you’re not doing much, chances are you’re doing a whole lot more than the people being impacted by it will be able to put into words.
What I’m focusing on right down is being able to do all these things without getting bogged down by the bitterness and cultural crap that’s out there. I was writing about this very topic in my journal yesterday, and the page that I was writing on had 1 John 4:7 inscribed at the bottom of it: Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.
That was very powerful for me, and reminded me how vital it is to pray about the relationships that I have and those that I encounter. When I do things impulsively and with a selfish spirit, it usually doesn’t work. But when I take time to talk to God about something that is on my heart, I’m able to approach it with a clear mind.
I completely understand how people of all ages, especially women, want to protect themselves from pain and suffering. So we try to use love as a bargaining chip; if you do this for me, I’ll be this person. If you don’t hurt me, I promise to go out of my way for you. I know that not everybody does or thinks that, but that seems to be the general attitude these days. And while it may protect you, supposedly, does it enable you to have what you really want? If anyone can attest to that, please share. I just don’t see how it helps.
Pain is a risk I’m willing to take in order to interact with people, to hear there stories, and to share my heart with them. Risk is a reflection of how I love, and love is a reflection of how I live. That’s enough for me.