You have this conversation multiple times a day… you know how it goes…
“How are you doing?”
“Great! And you?”
Except for when it’s not great, but society makes you feel like you need to say it is.
Have you tried to give a different response, a more genuine one, only to be shut down? Have you tried to open up even just a little bit only to hear in response “oh that’s too bad, I’ll be praying for you.” Yeah… I’ve heard that too. Then most of the time (depending on who you talked to) you walk away thinking “They only said that because they felt awkward and didn’t know how to respond.”
Or how about the time you told one of your friend something heavy you were dealing with only to be told the whole “well there are starving kids in Africa; it could be a lot worse” bit. Yeah… thanks for all the help, buddy…
We don’t like it when it happens to us, yet, we often do it to others. Why is it so hard for us to be genuine and loving?
I think there are three different elements to this that I’m going to break down. Then I’ll explain what the solution is in order for us to start doing our part to fix the problem.
THE REASON: FEAR OF VULNERABILITY
I would suggest the reason sincerity and unconditional love are so rare these days, is because so many of us believe that by keeping relationships from getting too personal, we will avoid getting hurt. It’s our safety mechanism. It seems that most don’t know how to really truly love others because, well, we don’t really know how to love ourselves. I would say that most of us don’t feel that we are worthy of unconditional love because as time goes on, it seems that less and less of us were raised in such a way as to experience it. As time goes on, wounded people have bread more wounded people and there have been fewer people able to model how to authentically love people as they are.
So much of our time and energy gets exhausted creating the illusion that somehow, we are perfect and we don’t let anyone get close enough to realize it’s not true. We are so desperate to show the world that we “have it all together” and that “our lives aren’t messy” and do so by keeping everyone at arms distance.
I mean, it makes sense… we’ve been hurt in the past: our parents let us down, our friends betrayed us, we weren’t provided for sufficiently as children, and the list goes on. We go around with all of these things suffocating us and keeping us in bondage, afraid to show our cards. We fear that if someone got close enough and saw all the hideous things about us, they might abandoned us just like the last one, causing us to relive that pain. Or we worry that if we show ourselves to others, they might not love us anymore, they may shame us for it, or they simply might not even care.
To avoid that, the “my life is perfect” facade is created.
THE CONSEQUENCE: IT’S TWOFOLD.
Our decision to be withdrawn from others because we need to “protect ourselves”, not only robs us from experiencing genuine love through authenticity, but it robs others from that as well. Not only are we falling a victim to the pain we carry with us and letting it control us, but we’re also passing that same, negative legacy down to the next generation.
The legacy of “I’m hurt and don’t know how to love, so I’ll shut down. Since I was shut down and didn’t love, I hurt him. Now he’s shut down and doesn’t have love to give her” and so on and so forth.
We’re repeating history when we do this.
Think about it, how is it that we restrict love from others because we believe (subconsciously or not!) it’s in the best interest of ourselves, yet somehow we dare act morbidly surprised when horrendous acts resulting in unspeakable hurt and anguish happen throughout the world?
If that’s our logic, God help us.
Often, out of our own fear, we wring every last drop of love out of the world like we would a wet cloth, then can’t believe our eyes when little Johnny down the street tells the neighbor kids he wants to kill them…makes perfect sense.
COMING FULL CIRCLE: OUR IGNORANCE BASED PRIDE.
Another challenge that stands in our way of unconditional love (which is a ripple effect of our fear of vulnerability) is our ignorance based pride.
We’re so quick to judge people and look at the outwardly and say “Wow look at what a mess their life is!” But do you know them? Have you heard their heart? Have you felt their pain? Have you cared enough to dig in, get your hands dirty, find out what is tormenting their soul and still love them in spite of it?
Because guess what, before that serial killer became a serial killer, he was an innocent little boy at one point in his life who was probably abused or had to watch his dad beat his mom and it messed with him – like it would any of us. He likely never had someone to help him, invest in him and show him that he had a trustworthy friend who could help him process his thoughts and feelings.
Same goes for the women we hear about on the news who drown their kids or the teenager that went into a school with a gun and took a bunch of innocent lives.
They weren’t those people their entire lives.
I am not justifying their actions by any means and they absolutely need to be held accountable for their actions. All I am trying to say is that we have the ability every single day to make sure that those around us feel loved. I believe if we are doing that and doing it well, we’re going to have way less problems in the world such as the above.
THE SOLUTION: SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE!
At some point we all need to face the skeletons in our closet and the monsters under our bed. Eventually, a person needs to seek healing for the time they were raped, for the porn addiction, for betraying their best friend, the pain their parent’s divorce caused them, the pain they experienced after someone they love committed suicide or for the lie they told.
Do these things hurt? Like hell.
Are you entitled to feel your feelings? …Well only if you’re as bad off as the starving kids in Africa…otherwise your feelings are invalid and you should keep them to yourself…(I joke, I joke.)
Without a doubt you are entitled to feel the way you do! Why would God give us emotions if he didn’t want us to acknowledge them and embrace them?
We can continue operating out of our brokenness and bondage by pushing the “mute” button on our emotions and numbing the pain in whatever way we see fit.
But for us to reintroduce love and sincerity back into the world, drinking our problems away isn’t going to cut it.
We need to have the courage to face our problems head on. We need to have the courage to embrace our feelings and feel them no matter how bad they hurt us. We need to have the courage to “show weakness” and be vulnerable and raw with others.
If you need a counselor, an accountability partner, or to even just confess your sins to a friend, have the courage to be bold and authentic and do so.
It’s okay to be transparent, to admit your failures and weaknesses and to ask for help!
That shows more strength than the person who acts tough because they don’t want to face their problems. Or the person who hides behind excessive humor trying to elude the weight of a raw conversation in which emotions are shared. Or the lady who comes across as spiteful and as if she hates the world, but really only does that to keep others out in hopes that she won’t be hurt.
Something incredible happens when we are willing to be vulnerable and admit our weaknesses: we are humbled! And when we are humbled do you know what happens? We suddenly have so much more grace and love to give others, because we finally came to a place where we saw and recognized how much we ourselves needed grace as we overcame our own problems.
After walking through our own issues and being humbled in the process, we no longer scratch our heads wondering why little Johnny threatened the neighbor kids. We suddenly have this compassion for people like we’ve never had before, as we recognize that there is an area of Johnny’s heart where he has been made to feel worthless… that he needs to be touched with our love and kindness.
We are no longer disgusted with people and their weaknesses, but come to a place where our heart breaks for them. Knowing they are operating out of a hurt place, we can embrace them, knowing that we ourselves once walked in their shoes, even if our problems manifested in a different way.
When we come to a place where we have accepted our own journey, sought healing and learned to love and respect ourselves and our journeys, then and only then can we give and receive genuine, unconditional love.
It starts with us.