This past week has been one where I was forced to face a lot of questions I really never wanted to face. See, I’m the kind of person that tries not to feel emotions. Okay, that’s partly untrue. I’m the kind of person that tries not to feel negative emotions. Sadness, anger, grief, etc. Yes, I’m aware that a lot of us try not to feel those emotions. However, I refuse to acknowledge that I need to feel those things in order to have a healthy mental life. I’d much rather deal with those emotions by ramming them into a ball of self-hate and humor and stuff it into the depths of my soul so that it can’t be seen by anybody else. I also make sure never to find myself in moments of silence for long enough to feel those feelings unreeling itself. I just distract myself with music or any other sensory stimuli so that I won’t have to face my brokenness. I mean, out of sight out of mind, right?
This is super unhealthy. Don’t do it. I’m an idiot. Do not be like me. That’s a one-way ticket to emotional suicide.
Anyway, the reason I share that is because one of the questions asked of me this past week forced me to face something I did not want to admit to myself. The question was simple, “what is your biggest fear?” I was asked that same question, by the same person, twice. The first time, I gave a partial answer. The second time, I answered with a level of honesty I refused to use for a long time. Now, in order to process it properly, I’m putting it into words for myself. And for you. Let me know if you resonate with what I’m about to share.
So, what is Abi John’s biggest fear? Is it death by a 1000 paper cuts? Or maybe to be in a world where there is no coffee? Or even worse, a world with only decaf coffee? Or a world where the only kinds of conversations that happen are small talk? Oh, maybe it’s a joke that doesn’t stick. While all the above are truly terrifying and (sorta) legitimate fears that I have, none of them would be my biggest fear. No, my biggest fear, simply put, are relationships.
This is slightly awkward. I need to clarify that when I say relationships I’m not speaking of any one type of relationships. I’m not speaking of only romantic relationships or only platonic relationships. I’m not speaking only of relationships you have with people you’ve known for decades or only of relationships you have with people you’ve known for 10 minutes. I’m not only talking about familial relationships or only social relationships. I’m not talking about people I like or only people I don’t like. When I say “relationships,” I mean all of it.
With that out the way, allow me to explain a little more why this is the case. Something that is very important to me is trust. I have a desire to be trusted and I want to be able to trust others. Without trust, I don’t believe anything else can happen. I would even go as far as to say that you cannot love completely without trusting fully. You know the popular phrase that goes something like “love makes the world go ‘round?” I’d say that love doesn’t do anything of the sort. Rather, trust is what keeps the world going.
I implore you to be a little patient with me as I try to put my thoughts into words to break down the logic behind this perspective. Let us look at situations where love and trust both manifest most commonly – relationships. Think about some of the relationships in your life. Whether it is your own or people in other relationships that you’ve made observations about, think about them. For the sake of this post, here is an example of two hypothetical people: John and Jennifer. Let’s say that John and Jennifer love each other. If that is a true statement, then we have to assume (which is most likely accurate) that there is trust in that relationship. Now imagine if there was no trust, could we then honestly claim that there is love in the relationship?
Personally, my response to that question is no. You cannot claim to love somebody you do not trust. It’s impossible. A wife who does not trust her husband does not love her husband. A son who does not trust his parents does not love his parents. A person who cannot trust her friend, cannot love that friend. Listen to me, I am not claiming that we cannot perform loving actions toward the people we do not trust. That is absolutely not the point of my message. My life is perfect example showing that people are able to perform acts of love for others even if they don’t trust the person they are performing the act of love for. You have to understand, there is a difference between performing an act of love for someone and loving someone.
Look at John and Jennifer again. Jennifer might do something for John out of love. She might pick him up at 3 am in the morning because his car broke down in the middle of the interstate. She might not let him do something stupid when he is upset about something. She may do things for John that, for all intents and purposes, is her loving him. And herein, lies the twist.
Jennifer performing acts of love for John or vice versa, is easy. You can’t question Jennifer’s love for John when, on the 7th evening in a row, Jennifer was going out of her way to be there for another ridiculous situation that John finds himself in. However, performing acts of love or kindness to another human being, while good and kind to do so, isn’t love. It’s just good works. They’re just actions with good intentions. And last time I checked, that’s what the road to hell is paved with.
This is where trust comes into play. This is where things get difficult. This is where I’d rather deal with death by 1000 paper cuts instead of trust. I stand by my claim that in order to truly love someone, you must trust them. In order to trust them, however, you must be willing to be vulnerable with the other individual. That’s the epitome of love. You are willing to trust the other person with your heart. You are telling them, “I love you. Here is my heart. I know you will keep it safe.” It is so much easier to say, “hey, I love you, look at all the things I’ve done for you. Look at everything I’ve provided for you. Look at all the sacrifices I’ve made for you.” I know it’s easy to say that because I’ve done it. I’ve shown my love to the people around me for the past half-decade by doing things for them, putting myself on the line for them, willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they feel loved. I proved to others my love for them by doing good things for and toward them. But I never trusted anyone that I performed those acts for. Here is the kicker, I’m a man of faith who believes in God and the Gospels of the new testaments and the one of the foundational beliefs of my faith is that good works mean nothing outside of trusting in God.
I am not comparing relationships with people to ones’ relationship with God, however, there is a parallel there. We cannot claim to truly love someone, if that love is solely based on good actions we perform toward them. That’s the easy kind of love. That’s the action-oriented kind of love. That’s the kind of love that can be duplicated by even the most evil of creatures. That’s the kind of love that can be taken advantage of. Instead, the true love between people comes from performing one of the most difficult feats in this life: trusting someone. It’s not easy, I’m not claiming it is, and I’m not even going to claim that one day you will be able to do it. I’m the poster boy for trust issues. I can count in one hand the number of people I trust.
My job, my intention, in writing this is not to make you trust more. I will never tell anybody to trust simply. Trust is earned. Not given. Trust isn’t charity. Trust is giving the most valuable part of yourself to somebody else: your heart. I will never, ever, tell anybody to do that without hard evidence backing it up. And even then, I’d still tell them to be careful. However, we have to be aware of the complementary nature of love and trust. As long as you are aware of that truth, as long as you are not blind to the reality that simply doing good things, isn’t true love, I’ve done what I set out to.