by Kail Walker
“I love you anyway…..” That is a message that many of us struggle to hear when we encounter it. Our ability to experience intimacy with others is directly linked to our ability to believe that we are someone worth being intimate with. Unfortunately, too many of us maintain a carefully groomed list of the reasons why we don’t qualify as a partner. The specifics of those lists differ from person to person but certain themes are common: guilt we carry from our past, our perceived limitations as a lover, and the harsh words spoken by others that we have we come to believe as truths about who we are.
So what do we do with our list when someone in our lives decides to take a chance on us and love us in spite of our flaws and our scars? How do we respond when someone tells us, “I love you anyway”? The answer is we try. We try to set our list aside and don’t argue our eligibility. We try to get out of the way and let them. Perhaps slowly and just a little bit at a time, but we try.
The fact of the matter is that our lists have lied to us. Our lists have told us that the trauma, the scars, and the hurt that we have been subjected to set us apart from the rest of humanity. The fact of the matter is that nothing could be further from the truth. To be human is to be broken. If there is one single trait that unites all of mankind it is that we are all, every one last one of us, damaged goods. Some might read this statement as discouraging but it is not – it is freeing. If we understand that there is no standard, no prerequisite of perfection, for us to qualify to be worthy of love and affection then we come to understand the reality of the situation: we are damaged, broken, and hurt and so is everyone else. This includes the person reaching out to us and saying, “I love you anyway.”
This is the real, honest truth: the people who are reaching out to us are damaged too. Their experiences may not be mirror images of our own but that doesn’t change the fact that life has taken a toll on them as well. We need to realize that when we cut ourselves off from intimacy we are hurting those who are trying to care for us even more than we are hurting ourselves. We may think that we are saving them from the inevitable disappointment of finding out how screwed up we really are, but what we are actually communicating is that we don’t trust them to see who we are and not run away. With that in mind, let us call a spade a spade – do we really think that they don’t already know? Few of us are very good at hiding the truth about our wounds no matter how hard we try. If someone has been around us enough to care for us and want to reach out then they probably have some idea that we are flawed, hurting, and need to heal; just like them.
Intimacy is not reserved for perfect people in perfect circumstances because those people simply don’t exist. Instead, intimacy belongs to those who share their struggles with others. Intimacy is experienced by those of us who are messed up but still allow themselves to care and be cared for by other imperfect people. True intimacy is a process of growing and overcoming together.
Given the amount of time and energy that most of us have dedicated to collecting our list of shortcomings it is unreasonable to expect the influence of our lists to disappear in an instant. That being said, we absolutely must believe that it is possible and it is attainable to live beyond our lists. By lettings others take a chance on us, we take a chance on them, and we take a chance on ourselves. A little at a time, step by step, we begin to become more than our hurt and our list stops ruling our lives. As that happens, isolation is replaced by freedom, connection, and intimacy.