It seems to have become a rallying cry of a generation, or perhaps just a rallying cry overall. We use it as a rebuttal for a million different situations, but none the more polarizing then when it comes to avoiding deep and meaningful relationships:
“….But I don’t want to get hurt!”
My initial reaction is, “ Well, who actually does?”
It’s natural to be a little bit cautious, and the world would be a disaster if we weren’t. Yet the more I hear it, the more it comes across as an excuse as opposed to a valid concern. Do some truly want to avoid unnecessary hurt, or do they want the benefits without taking risk or responsibility?
The fact is, no one on this earth is immune to pain; at some point you’ll either experience it in one (or several) ways:
Going into something and knowing that it’s probably a bad idea, but doing it anyway.
Getting blindsided when things are going really well.
Understanding the risks, and taking things as they come. It might turn out well and it might not, and that’s OK.
The question is, what are you willing to live with?
Yes, boundaries are important, but there is a huge difference between setting boundaries and setting up an obstacle course. It’s baffling as to why some tout having been hurt in the past, yet turn around and hurt others by lying, cheating, or manipulating in order to get what they want. Maybe it’s due to a lack of confidence, not knowing how to communicate, or wanting to be in control of another person.
Then there are those who know they’re in a dysfunctional situation, but are unsure how to get out. Not only was I one of them, but I watched a friend put herself through the wringer for the sake of a complete idiot who wanted to take more than give. It’s often a battle of either trying to prove that you don’t care at all or that their personal well-being is a top priority. You either put up a wall to see how far someone will go, or you will try like hell to break it down.
It’s an exhausting push and pull, and one that unfortunately is considered normal all across the age spectrum.
I get that none of us is perfect; we’re all scared, we’re all lonely, and we don’t want to go through heartbreak. But we’ve become so terrified that we confuse necessary limits and self-protection with numbing real needs and feelings. There’s no black and white, clear-cut formula, and it could very well depend on the person and kind of relationship you’re in. It’s practically a given to believe that if men did this and women did that, we’d all be a lot better off. In a way that might be true, but we can only control our own choices and actions.
I’ve begun to wonder if it is less about what we do with the possibility of pain, and more about the perspective we have on it. Instead of saying “I’m going to make sure that this doesn’t happen,” we say, “I’m going to have the best experience possible, regardless of the outcome.” This can have a lot of different meanings, which is why it’s difficult to put into practice. One can assume that physical gratification is the best experience, but eventually they’ll get hit with the realization that it’s only prolonging the hurt, not eradicating it. Others might see it as diving headfirst into a new relationship, wanting to just relax and be in the moment. How do you let yourself be happy with what’s right in front of you, while still acknowledging the possibility that it might not be what you envision to be? Is there such a thing as proceeding with caution without purely waiting for the other shoe to drop?
One day at a time, sweetheart. Breathe and have faith.
Naming and vocalizing fear, especially a specific fear, gives it less power. My best friend once told me that she and her significant other are brutally honest about their fears and insecurities all the time, regardless of how silly it sounds. There’s something to be said for that kind of vulnerability; not just in romantic relationships, but with others as well. We all need people who are willing to speak truth and accountability into our lives, even when we aren’t ready to hear it. I’m now just becoming comfortable with opening up about what I am most afraid of: that I will not be enough in the eyes of my person, and that walk away from what we have without talking to me about it first. It has happened before, each time where I believed I was at fault for causing them to run, though deep down I knew otherwise. Everyone has a choice in terms of how they handle discomfort or frustration, and it’s ultimately their choice in terms of whether or not they’ll act like an adult.
I never want anyone to promise me that they won’t hurt me, and I wouldn't promise that in turn, even if it was unintentional. Instead, I prefer a mutual promise that we'll both take responsibility for our choices, regardless of how difficult it is. Say it, own it, and then work through it.
If it does end, the thorn of it all is believing that the pain is only temporary, that you can somehow move on and put yourself back together. I’ve been through enough where I understand that this is possible; granted I might not completely get over it, but I’ll still get through it. And if I surrender the broken pieces, allowing myself time and space for an honest reflection on what happened, I usually do heal from it. And by real healing, I mean without rebounds or hook-ups.
At my junior high and high school youth groups, we teenagers were often told to “guard our hearts,” and that avoiding dating equaled less heartache. In theory it seems like a good idea, but whenever I’ve tried to follow a full-proof formula for anything, I end up forgetting to trust God in the process. It doesn’t mean preparing myself for negative impact from the get-go, but by trusting my instincts and seeking Him before all else, that it will still be something that I can learn or grow from; it will not be a waste of time or energy.
This is all very much a thought process, one that I’m allowing to evolve and re-shape as time goes on. It’s messy, indefinite, like puzzle pieces still scattered and I have yet to come up with a method of putting them together. I’m still in the midst of walking through a bit of haze, where I just got out of something that has more questions than answers. It’s OK to take a step back, to re-evaluate, and wait until you’re ready.
And perhaps the first step is simply acknowledging that pain is not a problem to be solved, but an inevitable experience.