If you know me even a little, you know that I love to love–and I love to love big. It’s all I can do not to hug my checker at Safeway when I leave. It takes all my restraint not to tell my students that I love them as we part ways at the end of the day (I do, but if hugs are frowned upon, imagine the ruckus saying “I love you” would evoke!). I have accidentally told service agents I love them at the end of a help center call and I gush like a geyser when I see my nieces and nephews. And last week, I hugged my mom’s neighbor before we shared a single conversation. Sometimes, loving is easy. And sometimes, loving is incredibly painful.
Like you, I learned at a young age that getting hurt is one of life’s valuable lessons. Our parents allowed us to experience pain and the consequences of poor choices so that we’d learn to either avoid that behavior or put into place healthy parameters. I’ve been hurt in life and I have been hurt in love; maybe we all have.
Though the reasons we get hurt by love vary, they fall into one of two camps: either when it’s not returned, or it is returned but not in a way we expect or need. Love manifests itself differently in all our relationships, but this truth remains constant: we have expectations of what love looks like from that specific person and when those expectations are not met, we don’t feel loved.
Sometimes love shows up in a different package than we expected and because we do not recognize it, we cannot accept it as it was intended.
Sometimes we are our own road block to receiving love.
Sometimes we make love more about ourselves than the other person. We look inward, rather than outward. If it hurts, if it feels uncomfortable, if it is inconvenient–if it costs too much, then we walk away or we hurt that person back. As I write those last few words, the image of elementary school kids fighting on the playground come to mind. Though we may not be that immature (or physical), we can deeply hurt others with our words and justify our actions because “they started it.” We call this behavior healthy parameters. We push people away so we don’t get further hurt.
The world is full of hurting people, damaged people, and toxic people. We cannot meet all of their needs or expectations—and we were never meant to. Love sometimes looks like creating healthy distance, or calling a person out, or loving without words. We give what we can and trust that God will make up the difference. This is not usually viewed as love to the recipient. Love hurts.
Love looks out more than in.
Love is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. It is a made to order kind of deal. It is specific to each person. If you want to love others well, ask them what makes them feel loved. It may surprise you what they say.
For me, I feel loved through words. If Dennis talks to me for a solid five minutes, I’m on cloud nine all day. For Dennis, well–he loves to be touched. Ha! I know your mind just went into the gutter! Admittedly, mine did too–but he genuinely loves to hold hands while sitting on the couch. I hate holding hands. I do. They get all clammy. But I’m willing to pay that small price to show him love. Sometimes I show him love by cleaning the kitchen. He could care less about the cleanliness of the kitchen. Love comes in a different package than he expects when I do that, but because he knows my heart after 27 years, he knows that’s a package he will open, appreciate, and respond promptly by holding my hand!
Que John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” Sorry—couldn’t resist!