Has someone you cared about hurt you on a regular basis? How do we love them? Or...should we even try to love people who don't love us back?
I was once in a situation where someone close to me provoked me on a daily basis. I wanted to love them freely, but they were controlling, manipulative and insulting. I survived by adopting sarcasm as a second language, avoiding one on one situations with that person, and putting up walls to make me feel as safe possible. To other people, I appeared strong and confident, but on the inside I felt lonely and misunderstood.
When I was older, my time around this person diminished. While we were apart, my new community helped me open my heart, forgive, and learn to trust again. Unfortunately, the minute I was back in this person's presence, they weren't afraid to continue their affliction. While I was away, I made the mistake of thinking that because I'd changed, they had too, but I was wrong. Their cruel presence put my emotions back on lock down, and when I returned home it took me a week to feel normal. Then, it took me months to get over the guilt of feeling like an unloving, unforgiving Christian.
I struggled to learn how to love someone who hurt me for 23 long years. I'm certainly no expert, but if you're struggling, here are three key principles I try to live by:
Some People Can't or Won't Love You Back:
If you are forgiving and loving someone in a biblical way and they are not returning this same sort of love, the problem is probably not on your end. Some people are simply incapable or unwilling to give love. Maybe they've been hurt in the past, they haven't been taught how to be selfless, they're insecure, or possibly they have a hidden agenda. Whatever the reason, some people just AREN'T GOING TO LOVE YOU BACK. I know It hurts. It hurts to hear and it hurts to believe; but it is healthy to admit this to yourself so you can set realistic expectations. You must come to the understanding that the love you give may not ever be reciprocated. And if it is every now and then, you can be pleasantly surprised. But, be wary of changing your expectation unless it becomes their consistent behavior toward you.
Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." As Christians, it's our job to take care of ourselves emotionally. We can hope that people will change, but not set ourselves up for unrealistic emotional disappointment.
Some Disagreements Among Believers are Never Resolved:
As Christians, we should desire and seek to restore a relationship in conflict, but some disagreements are never fixed. When we feel betrayed, it feels easier to shut off our emotions and cut off the relationship. But if we do this, we will stagnate our healing. Festering hurt leads to hate, while forgiveness fosters healing.
It is possible to forgive and love someone who has hurt us but will not forgive or love us back. This kind of forgiveness is a choice to release our anger, bitterness, or frustration to the Lord whether or not the other person reciprocates. This kind of forgiveness goes against our pride, but Proverbs 29:23 says, "Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor." If we want to gain honor, we must surrender our right to retaliate, seek justice or wish them harm so our souls remain good with God. We forgive them because God created and died for them, not because our affection for them has returned.
We Were Created to Trust in Community:
Recently, when I was hurting from a friendship, my friend Danielle Newsome said to me, "Sharie, don't feel bad because you trusted someone who proved untrustworthy. We were made to trust and live in community. The fact that you trusted shows that your heart was soft toward them. Don't regret NOT having a skeptical, hard, pessimistic heart! People will hurt us, but God is able to heal us."
Oh, how I love wise friends! She was reminding me of the principle in Proverbs 3:3, "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart." If you trust when someone is untrustworthy, you've given them a great treasure; your love and faithfulness. God will see your good deeds and will honor you.
There's really no trick to loving people except to listen and trust the Lord's advice to you in each situation, but I hope these principles will help you to move forward in your faith until next time we talk! -Sharie King
© 2017 by Sharie King. All rights reserved.