A few nights ago, I sat across the table from a friend who was broken. He didn’t say much at first. There were some awkward silences. Some far off gazes, but I could tell something was weighing him down. Like any good friend, I made awful small talk. I directed his attention to a commercial on the big screen. I poked fun at myself. I discussed chicken wing sauce options.
I’m not good at surface conversation. I have no real use for it. Correction: there is NO real use for it. I’ve run out of things to say about the weather, or the Yankees, Miley Cyrus and/or twerking. I’d rather know what’s on your mind or in your heart. It’s there where intimacy happens, community flourishes and fellowship becomes a reality.
So, I threw out the small talk and started asking some harder to answer questions. In return, I got a piece of my friend’s broken heart as he shared some recent disappointments. He let some people down– people he loved and who loved him in return. His posture, his tone, his lament were poignant as he recalled his actions. How could he rebuild their trust? Could he make it up to them?
Maybe it was better to be alone than to hurt anyone ever again, he wondered.
“It’ll happen again. I’ll hurt them again.”
And he’s right. He will. I will. You will. As much as we love our friends and family, there will come a time when we will hurt them. Our words, choices or actions unintentionally causing them pain. So we think the answer is to shelter them from us. Or guard our hearts from them. Either way, it’s a subtle division in attempt to hoard the shards left of our hearts. We feel tattered and torn so we attempt to self-preserve.
I’ve mulled over C.S. Lewis’ words on this issue: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
More than a broken heart, I fear a hard heart. A heart that is no longer moved to compassion or concern for those around me because caring means letting someone IN.
So, what sage advice did I give my friend? What brilliant words of hope did I offer? None. Instead, I offered my heart and a listening ear. I reassured him that there were people who would love him no matter his mistakes. (As a side rant: Loving someone regardless of their mistakes isn’t excusing or promoting those actions, but letting that person know that those actions don’t determine their identity. More to come on this.)
Sadly, this hasn’t always been my response. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve walked away from friends who made stupid choices instead of loving them through it and I regret it. It was selfish and immature and a faux safeguard. It seemed the RIGHTEOUS thing to do. Bah! As a result, I’ve lost my opportunity to be an influence and source of Light in their life.
Let’s truly love people. Love them when their neck deep in crap. I’m not asking you to love their crap, but love them in the midst of it. Stop being afraid to get dirty and dive in. Live out the words “You’re not alone.”