In their hit single, a Scottish rock band from the 70’s found a large audience with the song, “Love hurts.”
“Love hurts, love scars, Love wounds, and marks, Any heart, not tough, Or strong, enough To take a lot of pain, Take a lot of pain…ooh ooh love hurts.”
Is it true? Have you ever been hurt by love? I’ve met people so badly hurt by love that they’re unwilling to risk loving again. They desire love and being loved but fear the risk of loving. They live with a wall around them to protect them from being hurt by love.
They live with a kind of catch 22
Loneliness is tough, but love is risky. Life without love feels empty at times, but it’s less complicated. Being single is challenging, but choosing to love means vulnerability and the loss of love hurts.
Ask a widow or widower if loss of a lover hurts. Ask parents how much pain they feel when their child strays into destructive behavior. Think of the pain caused by divorce. Yes, love hurts. Labels like widow, widower and divorcee convey a sense of hurt and pain.
A lesson learned at a conference
A number of years ago, I was the guest speaker at a large conference for singles. My theme focused on the decision of marriage. More than three hundred singles attended the conference and, unknown to me, half of them were single again through divorce. It quickly became apparent that many in the audience had been significantly hurt in previous relationships. They showed it on their faces and in their demeanor.
These singles faced conflicting desires. They wanted to be in a marriage relationship but were strongly resolved not to get hurt again. As a result, they built protective walls around themselves that hindered their ability to step toward relationships that might lead to marriage.
Midway into our conference, I put aside my notes and addressed the issue directly. You could have heard a pin drop when I did this. Many of them knew they faced self-constructed obstacles and they received my words as a kind of welcomed relief.
I reminded the singles that to love is to be vulnerable. The walls they built for protection also imprisoned them. The risk of reliving their pain was so great that they (almost unknowingly) hid behind protective mechanisms that hindered their ability to cultivate deep relationships. They needed to realize that those unwilling risk loving often end up in undesired lives of isolation and loneliness.
When couples or communities take a low-risk approach to love, relationships become shallow and superficial.
I encouraged the singles to remember that when we choose to live full and flourishing lives we will get hurt. Others risked being hurt when they loved us and most of us would admit that we have (in some ways) hurt those who have loved us.
Loving another person is risky
In a fallen world, people get hurt. Some who choose to love are misunderstood or taken for granted. Others are betrayed or abandoned. Some suffer by watching a loved one suffer. Others suffer loss of a loved one. Love will always involve potential for hurt. But through our hurts we can become stronger and wiser– if we respond positively. The key for many of these singles was to learn from their experiences instead of being enslaved by them.
Of course, we must be wise enough not to walk blindly into an obvious set up for pain. This is why I was teaching about how to make the decision of marriage one of their best decisions.
If you’ve been hurt by a relationship due to carelessness on your own part, learn from it. Take inventory by sitting down with a wise counselor who can help you see the forest through the trees. Make changes that will help you become wiser in how you approach relationships. Explore deeper issues in your relationship with God as the providential ruler of your life.
If you choose bitterness and remain distant from close relationships, you’ll lock yourself in a prison of fear and loneliness.
Think more deeply about love
Cultural understandings of love are shallow and self-absorbed. They’re often reduced to emotion and infatuation. I am convinced that we could minimize some of the hurt from love if we abandoned cultural distortions of it. Returning dignity and even toughness to love is essential if we hope to stop the tide of broken relationships in our culture.
Love is a value word
To love someone is to value them. “I love you” could be exchanged with “I deeply value you.” Love is also a term of devotion or commitment. “I love you” in this case could be phrased, “I am devoted to you.” To say, “I don’t love you anymore” should be understood as, “I choose not to value you or remain devoted to you.”
Warning to selfish people and enablers
Love focuses on others and is not a term for selfish people. Some people only value others for what they do for them. This is the opposite of love. True love seeks what is best for the one loved — even if it requires doing or saying what the loved one doesn’t want to receive. Sometimes this will mean confronting a loved one rather than enabling destructive attitudes and actions.
When love fulfills this role, it will often be misconstrued as unloving. Expect this response when dealing with manipulative and selfish users. Loving others must always be based on God’s definition of what is best.
If love is mature, of course, it will overlook many minor offenses and be full of grace and forgiveness. But Love cannot thrive where dishonesty and deception exist.
Love from God’s perspective is self-giving to the point of suffering. God loved unloving people like us and it hurt him. Scripture says that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s love for us is both our example to follow and the firm foundation for our security when we risk loving others (see: Romans 8:38-39).