I think there comes a time in everyone’s life when we give up on someone. We don’t want to. It’s in our nature to be loyal, to see the best in people, to love unconditionally. These are people who, despite how they hurt us, we cherish who we thought they were, or see them differently than they really are. We hold on too long.
Let’s face it. Some people, no matter how much we love them, are unwilling to love us back.
Several years ago, I counseled with a pastor about my dad. I needed advice. I was beyond weary. My dad was a good man at his core but deeply troubled from a lifetime of insecurities. He was cloaked in self pity, and nearly every relationship he had was destroyed because he believed that he was the victim of the trouble he caused. This paradigm ruled his heart, mind, and spirit, and the consequences were never-ending for the people who loved him most.
Oh, how I wanted to fix him.
This seasoned, gentle man of God watched me and heard my heart as I choked on words that painted a picture of someone who had fallen short in nearly every capacity. As a husband, father, grandfather…. As a man blessed in so many ways, my dad in essence was a failure. And he knew it. On and on, I poured out my woe. I wanted, I guess, a miracle; a key to open up his heart and cause it to turn from stone back into flesh. In short, I wanted him to suddenly become someone he never was.
Instead, my pastor looked at me, his head nodding, his eyes full of empathy, and said in the simplest words, “Mary, he can’t give what he doesn’t have.”
I was stunned.
God is supposed to fix people. He is supposed to cause them to rise up, see the error of their ways, repent, get their caboose back on the railroad track of life, make them straighten up and fly right. Only that was not what this man of God was telling me.
We are supposed to love, right? And if we just love enough, we can cause people to finally see us worthy to love us back. It’s just not always how it works out.
Some people simply either stop, or never fully had, the ability to know how to reciprocate well. Because of trauma in their hearts, loving well becomes distorted like a fun house mirror. It doesn’t matter what we say or do to prove otherwise.
This was easy to see in my father. Knowing his childhood, his self esteem, his addictions… Still, I loved him. We all did.
But what about others? What about the friend, the husband, the sister, the neighbor… ? What about the kid you have or know who, no matter what you have done to pour into them, they simply look at life, and us, differently than how we want for them?
I wish I knew.
That day, speaking with the pastor, changed how I saw my dad. I let him go. It wasn’t that I stopped loving him; instead I stopped trying to fix him. I saw him as the broken little boy in an old man’s body that he was. I could have compassion and still release him from expectations that he simply did not have the capacity to reach.
It freed me, and in some ways, him too.
My dad is just one example in my life. There are others. I bet you also have a name or two. Casual or intimate, friend or foe; we come at them with both barrels loaded because they stopped being who they should be. They hurt us, deeply. They wander away without remorse. They reject us in big and little ways.
Sometimes, we just have to accept that some people truly are broken. No matter how much we wish that things were different, we can’t make them love us. We can’t shift their paradigms. We can’t heal what is in their hearts. We can’t make them see the consequences of their sin or the damage that they cause.
Only God can.
I have come to understand, that sometimes we just have to let them go. We have to stop trying to fit square pegs into round holes. We have to love unconditionally, even when others choose to not live out their roles and value in our lives. We have to have “ah ha” moments when we can see so very clearly that they can’t give what they don’t have, no matter how much we want them to.
It’s hard to see God in these seasons, but I assure you, He’s there. He watches over us when our hearts are hurting. He gently guides us onto a path that will lead us to better days, even when we can’t possibly see them yet. He doesn’t leave us when others do. He turns it all around for good.
He does. He will.
Letting go is so very difficult. But giving people over to God is the most compassionate thing we can do for them and for ourselves. It frees us. It unchains them so that He can do what only He can do.
My friend, hear me… Love hurts. We all know this. But the kind of love that God will bring into our lives will come from people fully enabled to love us back. We won’t have to prove anything to anyone. When it comes, we will know that it was sent by Him and at just the right time to receive it.
God knows everything you are going through. He gives us His all and it is always to the full.