I'm sure many of you are familiar with this New York Times article from earlier this year about how to fall in love with anyone.
"The wonderful thing about falling in love is you learn everything about that person so quickly. And if it's true love, then you start to see yourself through their eyes. And it brings out the best in you. It's almost as if you're falling in love with yourself." ~Paul in Playing by Heart
Aron's study shows that love can be manufactured because it is not only about getting to know the other person and exploring how they think, feel, and work, it is also about opening yourself up to another person and letting them see how you think, feel, and work. In other words, by allowing ourselves to be raw, vulnerable, and seen, we feel loved. (Disclaimer: This doesn't mean we can or should fall in love with anyone. Obviously, lasting, romantic love, is only possible if all of the other compatibility points are there too.)
Before leaving on this journey, I told many people I loved them. Friends, family, ex-lovers. It’s a novel idea these days to tell someone they are loved. But it has so much power.
"I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes." ~C.S. Lewis
I told one man I loved the idea of him. He is someone I barely know. But his mind, his attitude, his rawness are unbearably attractive. And I wanted him to know how much I’ve appreciated what he shares with me and what he brings into my life.
I told one man I loved him because I knew it was something he needed to hear. Something he needed to be reminded of. We don’t always feel lovable, especially after having caused someone so much pain. But I do love him still. And I wanted him to know that I forgive him.
I told one man I loved him because I desperately hoped he loved me back. Timing has been off for us and I wasn’t as receptive to him in the past as perhaps I would be today. But I couldn’t leave without him knowing that I loved who he is, who he isn’t, and who he hopes to become.
The third man said,
The one thing I've wanted all along was to feel like you were that safe place, that harbor for me to go to. I've needed to feel like I can come to you with my thoughts, dreams, weaknesses, and personal misgivings and be safe with you. I don't feel that way and I don't know how to change that feeling.
It stung me a little to hear his assessment because, ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you this: waiting for a magical feeling of security with another person that tells you it's safe to trust them with your heart is going about it backwards. That's not how it works! You feel safe with another person BECAUSE you trust them with your heart and they have proved worthy of that honor by holding it sacred. The peace doesn't come first, the risk does. The beauty of love is in allowing someone to see everything you have and everything you are and trusting them to continue to show up anyway. The beauty of love is in being willing to risk feeling unsafe in order to allow the other person to care for you. Not everyone is capable of doing that for us. But we wouldn't know who is if we didn't risk putting ourselves out there to find out who is willing.
"So I would choose to be with you. That's if the choice were mine to make. But you can make decisions too. And you can have this heart to break." ~And So It Goes, Billy Joel
To put myself out there and to let myself be seen is risky. But I continue to take that risk. I want someone to see me flaws and all. I trust another with my heart and then wait to see if they choose to lean in. I challenge another to show up and wait to see what that looks like. Sometimes when I offer my heart, instead of holding it sacred, the other tosses it back like a hot potato. Sometimes the other tallies off my weaknesses as reasons not to open up to me in return. But that’s ok. Because, in reality, those are the reasons I want someone to love me. (You might find this article useful.)
Rejection on the grounds of not feeling safe is very painful. But to me this type of rejection is even worse. This type of rejection is not useful. See, I want to become better. I want to progress. I acknowledge that I am flawed. I talk too much. I usually think I'm right. I have a lot to learn about how to be kind, patient, gentle, and loving. But I have the desire to learn and I am always working on those changes that will get me closer to the highest version of myself. I seek after someone who sees all of my imperfections and chooses to help me to become who God intends me to be, not someone who believes these inadequacies are hindrances.
Evolution isn't comfortable.
There is a lot of friction preceding growth.
I seek after someone who challenges and encourages me to soften my rough edges, not someone who runs away from me because I'm not smooth or shiny enough already.
Those who are scared might say,
Even though we may get closer and closer emotionally, in our own way, aren't we waiting for the other person to demonstrate that they are safe, predictable, and secure to be with?
To be clear: Waiting for someone to demonstrate that they are safe, predictable, and secure to be with will not guarantee success. These are traits that, while demonstrated as trends over time, can change at any moment. We need to love anyway. We need to see the fear, the weakness, the ignorance, and the shame in another but choose to love anyway. When all is said and done, it's not just about being willing to love someone all out. It's also about that someone being open to being loved. Because, deep down, we all know what love is.
It is to be open.
It is to feel safe.
It is to be accepted.
And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
I am telling you, from a place of love and with a desire for you to become all that God would have you to be, you will never know what that peaceful, safe, loving acceptance feels like until you choose to risk trusting someone with your heart first.
This journal, this journey, these are the risks I’m taking. Because whether you follow "the rules" or you follow your heart, there will still be failure and rejection. Why play it safe?
Take the chance on your passion.
Reach farther, love harder, dream bigger.
There will always be danger, but there will also always be beauty.