There is an unspoken rule when one finds oneself in a new relationship or renewing an old one: never tell the object of your affection that you love them too soon – or else. Or else you’ll be putting unreasonable expectations onto the nature of your interactions, or you’ll frighten your beloved into an insincere, “I Love You Too” – only to find out somewhere down the line that the intensity of your feelings are not shared and never were. That their commitment was just insubstantial words, and they have neither the capacity nor the courage to love anyone other then themselves.
Thus, “I Love You” seems left to be said only by those foolish enough to willingly put themselves in harm’s way, sans the bulletproof vest.
This aggravates me. It aggravates me because I think this unspoken rule is a stupid rule, made even more inane tethered as it is to the assumption that somehow you’ll “just know” when the time right time is to say “I Love You.” As if the “I Love You” phrase is a cycle of the moon, etched in some harvest calendar, or is some kind of mathematical formula that can be derived given the expectancy of X and the parameters of Y.
“I Love You” is risky, because love and living is risky. There are no guarantees in this world (except death and taxes). “I Love You” makes you vulnerable and foolish, and you end up kicking yourself thinking that somehow you should have known better.
But you do know better. And there is no shame in that. There should never be any shame in loving.
So yes, love is foolish and risky. And worse yet, it requires mindfulness and daily practice. Any parent who loves their child knows full well the perils of loving that little person, the work it takes to be steadfast in your loving – even when you want to beat the snot out of their punked-ass little selves. But not loving them is not an option. And there is no expiration date to loving them because once you connect with that little person, once you let their presence, their breath, their life, intertwine with yours, there is no extraction formula to yank that love out.
So basically, I think you’re left with only two viable choices: pretend that love is not real and that your spiritual connection with a human being is a figment of your imagination; or, brace and arm yourself for battle. Because while loving someone initially can be effortless, the fidelity of love is a hell of a lot trickier. It requires being brave in the face of uncertainty, and showing kindness and compassion when your love is unreciprocated. And this love fidelity may be one of the toughest things you’ll ever have to do. But as I learned from my spiritual forefathers, it’s only love if you’re willing to bleed for it:
There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for a friend (John 15:13).
Whether it is a physical or metaphorical laying down of a life, both require submitting oneself to being vulnerable, to act in ways that the world may see as foolish. But if we do not humble ourselves in the practice of loving, if we do not allow the earth of our soul to be broken to let in the sun and the rain, we will not grow in and with the love of another.
And in the end, it’s all about the daily practice of crazy, foolish love. Don’t let anyone try to shame you and tell you otherwise.