Love Means Both/And
Every so often when I'm working in the late afternoon, I turn on the television and listen to Oprah as I work. Yesterday was one of those days. In recent months, Oprah has added an amazing woman, known as Dr. Robin, to her shows that deal with emotional issues, patterns, problems. This woman is a real truth-teller; she's compassionate but doesn't pad anything. She inspires courage in others. She calls people to better care of themselves because they deserve it--not because they've been bad or wrong or incomplete. In my opinion, she's really got it together and serves people lovingly and truthfully.
Yesterday she asked a man on the stage to consider where he first witnessed or experienced the kind of destructive pattern he was now creating in his family life. She said, "A wound like this can only come from early childhood--where did you first see someone treating others this way?" The man at first said, "I don't know--my parents were perfect, the best..." but as Dr. Robin continued to ask the question, he began to cry. He said, "I love my dad, but he did't respect my mom--I love you, Dad--he never listened to anyone, not ever." Dr. Robin said, "He didn't listen to you," and he responded, "He didn't listen to anyone."
Dr. Robin said this was a very deep and important issue--we need to be able to hold those two realities--"I love you and you hurt me"--in the same space. Our tendency is to group people into "good" or "bad" groups. When they do things that affirm, uplift, reassure, or accept us, we think they are "good" and we love them. When they do things that tear us down, reject us, hurt us, or judge us, we think they are "bad" (or worse, that we are the bad ones and deserve it), and we believe we should stay away from them and not love them. So it becomes hard to us to be honest when we are hurt by the people that we have to love for our own sense of identity; we will deny the hurt, put it away, blind ourselves to it--and then later in our lives, unknowingly recreate it so it can be welcomed out and healed. Maybe this is where the whole "us and them" game comes from in life. This may be the root of the conflicts we have in our workplaces, our congregations, our marriages.
This morning in my reflection time, I was thinking about how important it is to be able to speak the truth and say, "I love you and you hurt me. I was hurt by your words, your example, your messages--and I love you and know you were doing the best you could at the time." Telling the truth is the first step. Loving anyway is the second.
Maybe that's what Jesus was getting at when he wept over Jerusalem and when he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He still loved--and loves--us, even now.