Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The People We Love

"You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you." -Frederick Buechner

I've been thinking a lot about love and the people I love. I've been thinking of how terrible it is to hurt someone you love or to be hurt by someone you love. I think there was a time when I would have said that hurting someone you love is even worse than being hurt by someone you love. But lately I've come to think that worse than either of these is hurting for someone you love.

If you hurt someone you love, you can do everything in your power to make amends, to say you're sorry, and to try to set things right. Yes, it is terrible and you feel awful and you don't have control over if they will really forgive you. But if there is true love there and you are truly sorry and you really do not commit the same offense again, there can be healing. There can be restoration of the relationship. There can be forgiveness, and, after a time, the love will cover the hurt and there will be happiness again.

If someone you love hurts you, it is also terrible and you feel awful and you don't really have control over their choice to make amends or not. You can be devastated and feel that the world will never be the same again. But you do have control over how you handle it. If they are sorry and do whatever they can to make things right, you can draw on the love you have for that person to work toward forgiveness. If they are not sorry, it may take a long time to work through, but you can still learn from it. You can take that experience to become stronger and to be more empathetic of others who have the misfortune of the same experience.

But when you hurt for someone you love, you have no control. You have nothing but the anguish of their pain, pressing on your chest and welling up in your eyes and souring your stomach. It doesn't matter if it is a unforeseen tragedy or their own toxic choices that have caused their pain. You cannot change it and you cannot make it better and you cannot come up with any words to take it away. You can remind them how much you love them and you can pray for them and try to offer encouraging words, but none of these change their circumstances. It is something they have to work through. Yes. I think hurting for someone you love is worse than hurting someone you love and far worse than being hurt by someone you love.

I'm not sure where this leave us. As the quote at the top pointed out, we have a whole world living inside us. Is it better to limit the number of people you allow into that world in attempt to limit the pain we can feel? I don't think so.... but sometimes it really feels as though that would make life so much less painful.

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