Recently debated at my house: how do we grow to close our hearts? Daniel and I took different positions, but I don’t remember who said what now. We were discussing children and the ease with which they love, and how, as adults, we are much more reserved with our love, practically hoarding it and, at the same time, never fully accepting the love offered to us. I think he said that children can give away so much love because they are given so much. I disagreed, but mostly because I felt like it (yes, I sometimes get that way). I didn’t even have half a second to come up with a good counter argument before our one good conversation of the day was interrupted by Little Miss Interrupter. (Now one argument I would make is that many children are not given love but continue to approach others openly.)
I confessed to friends last week that my heart is too closed off. In looking back, noting the various times it was broken, I can sort of see how it got that way. I’m not the sort of person to have many expectations of others . . . at first glance. Here’s a list for you: be honest, be kind, keep your word as much as possible, don’t betray trust, don’t manipulate, share the responsibility of the relationship, maintain contact sporadically. I think that’s a pretty fair list; at least, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. I have only a few instances in childhood that I can say that my expectations weren’t met. As an adult the tally is a little higher.
In college I dated a boy named Ben. He was soooo funny. He made many people laugh at my expense. In 6 months Ben destroyed me. A couple things happened as a result of Ben’s meanness: I forgot who I was, and I closed off a huge part of my heart to anyone else. Breaking up with him was one of the first times I ever remember defending myself. I finally realized that 1) we’re all messed up people and that 2) I had choices to make about how I let other people treat me. It took me almost a year and a half to really recover from Ben, and by then I’d dragged a really wonderful guy into my chaotic mess (fortunately we both saw pretty quickly that I was too broken to share myself, and we had a mutual parting). In the middle of that year-plus recovery I was doing a nose dive into the pit of self-loathing. I really shut down. I could barely make eye contact with friends; I felt like not one part of me was worth knowing, let alone loving. I began to turn the beautiful lessons only heartbreak brings into an armor. Instead of allowing wounds to heal, I scorned my bruised ego and weak mind and all but cut off some of the tenderest bits of my heart. It was the longest pity party I’ve ever had.
When I rebuilt myself 18 months after Ben, a few things that had been dormant (and some not-so-dormant) came into full view. Through Ben I learned the true power of the unfettered tongue and the destructive bent of sarcasm. I found that acting out of woundedness results in more hurt in others. Ben was one of those slap-across-the-face experiences (no, not literally) that makes it hard for me to remember who I was before; it’s hard to recognize just all the ways I changed as a result. I’ve always been more of a fighter than a lover, but this break-up really drove that fierceness to the surface. I know I came away from that experience much more ready to stand against things I think are wrong, more vocal about my opinions when a fight came to my door.
Confessing my closed heart has made me pause. As a person trying to pattern my life according to my beliefs (“walk the walk”), I feel that a closed heart not only does not reflect the model of living that Jesus taught, but also keeps me locked up in a prison I’ve created for myself. Part of opening this one particular door of my heart involves forgiving Ben. He was a bastard. He treated me like shit. I make no excuses for him and do not defend his behavior. I recognize that he probably has no idea how he destroyed me, but I cannot continue to live according the havoc he wreaked. I choose to forgive him so that this tender part of my heart might come back to life.
Meh. I don’t really want to have a conclusion to this blog. I just wanted to write it down. Growth is good. It reminds me of how much I don’t know, and I’m usually OK with that.