There are a number of serials I want to start, one being an “Old Jer Idea” series for ideas I have been talking about for years. These are tried and true monologues, not unlike my myths, only less entertaining and more pedantic. You’ll love them.
Alicia keeps telling me that I should write a book about my approach to relationships, confrontation, and love. I think that the fact that this suggestion is coming from my wife warrants an immediate book deal.
If I did write this book, I think my first tenet would be my definition of real love: love concerns itself exclusively with the object of love. Real love tries always to reach past the words and space that divide us in order to understand and comfort the loved one’s inner space. Love cares about the inside. This is simple, but devastating in many ways. Obviously, the biggest implication is that we have to allow others to love us by verbalizing what is going on in our heads. This means honesty, and invariably, some rough conversations we call “confrontation.” I have lots of ideas about how confrontation should be done, indeed it is a difficult skill, but talking about confrontation does not interest me at the moment. Instead, I want to explore a very specific pitfall in relationships.
Most of the roles we hold dearest to our sense of self are our functions as wife/husband/parent/child/friend/etc. Unfortunately, many of us desperately need to be good at those roles, and we set our hearts on a certain image of ourselves. To keep our realities in tact, we refuse to entertain the possibility of failure by resisting any indication that we have mismanaged our role. This forces those that we love to become actors and actresses in a tedious play designed to convince the “loving” person, perhaps Exemplar Edgar, that he is a great husband. But by insisting on this farce, Edgar’s loved ones come to despise him, for every day he rubs the truth in their face, “I care more about my self-image than you. Why else would I be so willing sacrifice your happiness and my relationship to you in order to preserve it.”
Of course, while some people resist criticism to the bitter end, others immediately break down and beg forgiveness for being an awful, despicable person. Both responses are monumentally worthless and a middle course between the two, or oscillating between them, is just as bad. Being 50% self-deprecating and 50% self-preserving is still being 100% self-focused. Instead, love, concern for what is going on in the other person’s head, requires a certain amount of maturity, of being secure in who you are, of being able to think from another’s perspective, so that you can forget about yourself for a moment. Why have they come to me? Why are they hurt? Why are they afraid? What underlying fear are they worried about and how can I address it? Do I understand what they wanted to say? Have I expressed that I understand? Etc.
If being loving is only possible after being secure, does that mean that insecure people are incapable of love? In short, yes. It depends on how and why one is insecure, but overall, I think so. Many, maybe a third of us, I do not know, have probably never loved someone in our entire lives. Of course, the insecure person might be capable of love in the sense that at some level he cares about another person, but caring and valuation is always a comparative enterprise. We prove our love when something we are insecure about is threatened, but we choose to listen and ask questions. Otherwise we love conveniently.
So who do you love, and who do you love conveniently? As you think about the people in your life, a good barometer is how easily and often honest conversation and confrontation happens.
Hmmm… I have some people I need to chat with.