No one ever fell in love without feeling a little bit brave. Mario Tomasello
We all want love, isn’t that what we tell ourselves? Yet Psychology Today says many of us are afraid to really let ourselves be in love. Our defenses raised offer a false sense of safety, we think they will keep us from getting hurt but all they really do is prevent us from achieving the closeness we desire. What is it that drives this fear of intimacy? What is it that prevents us from having the love and relationships we say we want?
Real love makes us vulnerable. We believe if we care less, we will be hurt less. The truth is if we care less, we don’t build the life and love we want. We live a life of wasted opportunities for closeness.
The person who loves us, who wants to get close, at some point may give up on us. They may still be with us, they may still come to visit us or maintain a marriage with us, but it won’t be the relationship we long for.
Life is about giving and getting. We may feel completely justified in judging our partner, questioning their loyalty, fidelity, commitment. We may feel a small mistake or oversight on their part was actually something bigger, and they meant to hurt us. It may be a sibling or a parent we feel we can’t forgive, for something that slipped out of their mouth and landed on our self-esteem, and opened up an old wound, a wound that never healed.
We might all be the walking wounded. We won’t feel better if we don’t love fully and something happens. I know from talking to someone who lost her husband too soon that making plans that never came to fruition was more healing than if they hadn’t been making plans. We might think it is worse to have plans that will never develop, but it isn’t. It might be counterintuitive that the more we love, and give everything we have to our relationships the happier we are and even the better we can deal with the loss of those relationships.
If we love our children as deeply as we can, even newborns that die, research tells us the parents who loved fully, are better off than the parents who tried to protect themselves from the pain of loss. There is no protecting ourselves from loss, there is only protecting ourselves from feeling, the regret is we can no longer have those feelings and we didn’t even feel them when we had the chance.
We can live on the sidelines of love, or we can love. Love is not about getting, but about giving. We are afraid to trust, and we think that is justified, but what is the cost of withholding that trust?
We don’t trust the drivers on the road, so we don’t let our children walk to school, or ride their bicycles. At a park, I saw a little boy on a strider bike going over rocks and his mother watched him. He’s brave and so is she, letting him become himself. Of course, he took a tumble, cried, she picked him up, but it wasn’t long and he was off adventuring again.
We can’t hold on tight to love; if we do we stifle it. Our children need to grow and develop, keeping them needing us is stifling them, we need to encourage their independence. We need to give them encouragement to be who they are to be, not hold them back out of fear.
Hold everything you love with an open hand. It’s like holding sand in your hand, the tighter you close your hand the more sand you lose but if you hold the sand with an open hand, you lose no sand. Prince Willis
If we are brave enough to love with our whole hearts the people who come into our lives and enjoy our time with them we will enjoy all there is. They may depart; they may move away, they may build lives that leave us on the periphery. It is still better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
The real tragedy of life is not to love when we have the chance. Once that chance is gone we may flog our self with our regrets. If we gave all we had to the people in our life when they were with us, we have no regrets for what was, even as we may feel pain and sorrow for what is. We need to feel every part of our life. We think we protect our self by not feeling because we don’t want to be hurt, but we hurt our self by not feeling, we make our self feel dead even when everything in our life is alive and vibrant. Worrying about what might be, we miss what is, and what could be.
This can happen in all our relationships. We hear about families who plan great get-togethers and then spend it fighting instead of enjoying the brief time they have together.
Often families fracture instead of coming closer in times of bereavement. We will face loss in our lives, it will hurt, if we made the best of the time we had with that relationship it can be with no regrets and we can be truly happy for what we shared even though our hearts are broken with their loss. Isn’t that better than regretting the words we didn’t say, the fights that broke out because… the hurt feelings, the missed opportunities? We will face loss, but we don’t have to have regrets about the relationships in our life if we made them the best they could be while they were with us.
Can we live a life with few regrets?
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength, joy, and beauty. Love deeply, fully, truly.
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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and LeadPaperback – Apr 7 2015