Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Love That Cannot Be Abused

One of my burning questions in life at the moment is this: how can I live from a love that cannot be abused?

Yes, strong phrasing.

There has been a steadily growing anger in my soul. This is new for me (to have it or to recognize it? I am not sure). As I struggle with the various things I struggle with (see recent postings), another way of describing the pattern that is crystallizing is that I am increasingly furious that people take advantage of my, and other nice people's, kindness.

Yet, I don't want to stop being nice, kind, attentive, thoughtful, understanding, forgiving.

The question I have phrased has been a puzzle for me, a paradox. But urgent. There must be a way. I know God did not design a tragic universe: one in which those who love routinely get destroyed by all of the desperate need that wants to throw itself at any trace of love it can find.

Today I finally start to get a glimmer of new understanding.

I see that I started from naive trust, and then moved into wounded distrust (the birth of my anger). But neither of these is it.

I had to stay with that anger for a while. My instinct was to recoil from it, draw back in denial to the naive trust again, but it was too late. I knew now that that was not it.

No, I have to move forward, through the anger, to a new kind of strength, and a new kind of trust.

The wounded distrust is not wisdom. It is a facile disillusionment. Of course people cannot be trusted in the way I used to trust! Nothing really remarkable about that insight. (It reminds me, anyway, of my students who confess to me that something traumatic in their past is why they no longer believe in God.)

But in what way(s) can people be trusted? This is my new question. Its answer will guide me to learning to love in a way that cannot be abused.

It is just a glimmer, but I sense in this question great power.

People are fallible and get tired and overworked and don't pay very much attention and don't realize their effects on each other and may not like each other very much anyway and in all of that can hurt each other deeply, and yet...

There is still a wise way of trusting, nevertheless -- a trust that runs deeper than a naive expectation of basic courtesy, respect, and competence. It's a trust that is not about these things (which, really, we cannot expect, anyway. When they are present, they are rare gifts!)

Where is that deeper trust grounded? I know, of course, that it is ultimately grounded in God, but I strive to find a clearer sense of exactly how it is manifest even in fallible human souls.

When I find that, I will learn a new way to love.

And maybe in that, my wounded soul will finally find healing.


  1. What's that Biblical expression about being as wise as a fox but as gentle as a dove... Over the years I've done favors for people and the results are not always pretty because, well, people are just like that. To me it is a matter of discerning the truth about the situation, determining what I can reasonably hope to accomplish and then stepping back and letting go of the results. This last part is hard. When you give money or time to help someone out and they just do something stupid and waste it all it does make a person mad. But I believe that they do understand what you have done for them (if not consciously then unconsciously) and the lesson is lying within them waiting until they are ready to learn it. Like the sun and the rain God's grace falls indiscriminately on the just and the unjust. And our charity for each other, as it comes from God, has to fall on the just and the unjust. The kind of charity we must learn to give is strangely impersonal. The same paradox arises within Buddhism where Buddhists are supposed to be compassionate but at the same time detached. When I first encountered Buddhist thought I saw that as a contradiction. Now I see paradox.

  2. "Like the sun and the rain God's grace falls indiscriminately on the just and the unjust. And our charity for each other, as it comes from God, has to fall on the just and the unjust." Yes, of course! Wow! Thank you!