Monday, October 12, 2009

Unrequited Love

Love in and of itself is never harmful to us. I write this as someone who has had my share of experiences with unrequited love. I've pined away for boys who refused to date me, I've chased after people of both sexes who had no interest in being my friend, and I've tried and failed to win respect or attention from people I greatly admired. These sorts of encounters leave scars, and even as I write this, not all of mine have healed. But even so, I have come to realize that love itself was never the problem. Unfortunately, when our love is unrequited, we tend to let it get tangled up in all kinds of other things that end up hurting us.

A big issue for me is pride. It hurts my self-esteem when people I love don't love me back. I want their approval so that I can feel like a good and worthwhile person. When I don't get it, I am tempted to either feel worthless or to get angry with the other person for failing to acknowledge my contributions or potential. Neither of these responses have anything to do with love. They're all about my need for validation and recognition and are grounded in the demands of my pride. When I get angry at not being recognized, I am focusing on myself, but humility could help me focus on my desire to do good for the other person, no matter what I do or don't get in return. Ironically, I've found that humility can also save me from the self-loathing and despair I feel when others reject me. For a Christian, true humility is based in the belief that it is God who makes us special, not we ourselves. But my failures and human rejections cannot take away God's love for me, and so I have worth, no matter how many times I am passed over by others. Humility means that God's opinion counts more than anyone else's, including my own.

There's also jealousy. Sometimes when I really love someone, I want to have more of their time, attention, or affection, and I resent the people with whom I have to share those things. It seems odd to me that I sometimes want people to love me more than anyone else, because I never feel that way about God. I rejoice in the idea of God's love being shared with everyone, but perhaps that's because I have faith in God to still give me what I need even as He is taking care of other people. I sometimes wonder if my jealousy over people is based in a lack of trust that makes me suspect that they won't have time for me if I'm not on the top of their list. But once again, of course, the focus has come back to me, and that's not what love is about. In the end, I do good for the people I love because I want them to prosper, not because I want to be rewarded. When I'm able to remember that, the jealousy fades.

I also have to deal with body image issues or even lust, and I've noticed that these issues don't necessarily confine themselves to romantic crushes. I wonder sometimes if my physical attractiveness (or lack thereof) is a factor in all kinds of relationships. Would others respond better to me if I was prettier? Some part of me worries that I cannot effectively love people of either sex if they don't find me physically appealing at some basic level. There's certainly plenty of advertising in our culture to promote that idea, and in some cases people do reject me in a variety of relationships because of the way I look. But others' perceptions of me don't have to limit my love. Of course I want the people I love to love me back, but I want them to love my soul, not my face, so I should act accordingly.

I am not writing these things as someone who has conquered unrequited love. I still fight battles against pride, humiliation, jealousy, and sometimes even lust. I yearn for validation from others, even when I know that I don't need it because I have God's unfailing devotion to support me. But these reflections remind me that it is not my loving heart that got me into these messes. To give up on love would cause me more heartache than dealing with the unfortunate side effects of unrequited love.


Anonymous said...

I read this and empathise with so much of what you say; I developed feelings for a friend and a few weeks ago told her how I feel to which she replied that she wants just friendship.. but it is SO difficult even though she lives in a different county. I don't know whether it is healthy to still see her or to step back from things. The pride, humiliation, jealousy and lust are all things that I relate to also and sometimes it's a real battle to control my feelings. However, we must keep trusting as everyday things get easier as we immerse ourselves in the God-given callings and hobbies that He has entrusted us with. To be around those that love and care about us and to continue to allow the heart of the one he has for us to be prepared for the love that we have to give

Abram said...

Wow.. just.. wow. That was absolutely beautiful. I really needed to hear those words. I can't tell you how many late night Google searches I've done hoping that someone somewhere could have anything to say that could ease my pain. I've been struggling with unrequited love for almost ten years. Every day is a struggle and God has only told me to pray and have faith (but otherwise no answers). I've felt all the things you've described (and so much more) and you're the first person.... you're the first person to even try to encounter the topic and not run away from it. It seems everyone has "the one that got away." At least for the moment, I feel like I'm at peace with the fact that I have one too.

I think I'll be coming back to your blog.

Anonymous said...

It is so encouraging to know that I'm not alone in this, that other christians are having similar emotional experiences. I have loved someone that doesn't have the same kind of feeling for me (they are Christian too) as I do for them for around 10 months now, and have recently been thinking about it. Almost immediately after asking God a question I came across Philippians 2 v20, 'For I have no-one else like minded, who will truly care about you' and tonight, a few months after, read Luke 18 v1, among other verses, and am now certain I am meant to love this person. I rejoice in His name and trust in His timing and guidance, whatever the outcome may be. Thanks for the blog, and may Christ be with you always! :)

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