Caveats to Unconditional


It happens all the time. Every single day. I let people down. They let me down. We don’t do it, I’m hoping, on purpose. It’s just another one of those kick-in-the-teeth realities of peopling a broken world.

I know a man who is so afraid of being hurt that he rejects people, straight-up, before the pain can start. He ditches every relationship at the precise moment when it hovers between sort of easy to walk away and in so deep it’s gonna leave some scars. He has left a wake of pain and broken hearts in the rearview of his fright. And he’s not exactly unscathed, either.

I can’t fault his fear. People hurt other people. I can’t really fault his logic: if a=pain, then by all means, avoid a. Seems like a no-brainer.

But the heart won’t abide reason and not even Simon and Garfunkel can persuade me that man is a rock. Not buying it. Or maybe I just have a thing for risk. Because that’s what relationships are: risk. I’m not even talking about the romantic sort that starts with heart shaped irises and stolen glances. I’m talking basic human relationships: with friends, colleagues, family members.

Being human means relationships. Being in relationships means all the fun and goodness that brings. It also means some bumps along the way. In the last few months, my own heart has sustained a few knicks at the hands of friends. Nothing big, merely a few Monty Pythonesque flesh wounds. They hurt nevertheless, these little paper cuts of forgetfulness, the glance of too-busyness, the hangnail of a sharp word at the wrong time.

Can we, as people, really love without condition? Without caveat? Without fear or pain or work? Does loving others unconditionally mean being a doormat to their wants and needs?

Which would you rather be: my friend who runs from hurt, or a person who embraces relationships and all the mess they bring. Why?

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