Awkward love a means to deeper self-understanding

What do you do when you’ve offended someone but they’re not making it easy for you to approach them about it? How do you express love to someone who wants to shut down an avenue for further communication?

This situation has been on my mind a lot these past weeks. More than once have I recently done the wrong thing by someone simply out of carelessness or absent-mindedness. Am I more careless and absent-minded than I have been previously? I’m not sure, but I am critically aware of the hurt I have caused another when they alert me to it. And I kick myself as soon as I realise I have caused offense.

I suppose it does no good to simply dwell on my past err in the hope that I might somehow find a way of not having to take action about resolving it. It is very tempting to want to justify myself by blaming the other, or explaining away the reason for my careless behaviour. I feel a rage against injustice welling up inside me, wanting to cry out in my defence, getting me off the hook, allowing me to avoid confrontation.

All this seems to be an excuse for my own awkward fear over confrontation and having to say sorry. I think I dislike saying sorry since it is so debasing. It makes me feel like I am grovelling, pathetic and worm-like as I plead for restoration – a second chance at making the relationship work again. I suppose it is pride to not want to have to admit to what I did, mainly out of preoccupation with other things, things which I could justify as worthy distractions from the thing that I neglected to do right. Is it perhaps that in apologising for my poor behaviour I am opening up the possibility for the other person to reject me more, to not reopen the door to restored friendship, thus making me feel even more worthless? This risk is frightening, the source of my crippling dilemma.

What I do want to say is that reaching out to others in this world is always going to be messy. Authentic love is awkward because it involves our whole personalities, including all our quirks, and playing on our many insecurities. Living and loving as whole persons in relationship with others is so fraught with pitfalls that it is no wonder that so many give up, retreat, close themselves off and shut themselves away as hermits and drop-outs.

Loving my neighbour as myself is not going to be easy, since it is me that so often and easily causes offense that upsets my neighbour. If living with others at work, in homes, suburbs and families so often brings out my worst, I can see why there is such a temptation to recoil and hide from others, rather than extend myself in the vulnerabilities of humble, sensitive love. I am very tempted to run emotionally from those who I don’t click with, who don’t quite understand me, or who don’t give me the benefit of the doubt.

While anger, grumbling, bitterness and a sense of injustice are all legitimate feelings as we rub shoulders with each other in this messy world, I sense that there is more to it than these initial feelings want us to know about. I would say that such feelings are an indicator of deeper aspects of ourselves that we might not necessarily want to allow to come to our attention, memories about parts of us that we have squashed down in the hope that we wouldn’t have to face them. It is at the very moment we wish to gloss over such things that such a discovery is invaluable to us.

I conclude that it is worth the risk of digging beneath gut reactions to find within ourselves the deeper causes of malcontent. I resolve now to turn my mistake and pride into an opportunity for better understanding of what is at work within me, seeking to find how I might relate with deeper maturity into the future. In this way my neighbour’s grief at my annoyance will not have been in vain, nor will my initial awkwardness over how to respond to this grief have been. Thus, my own struggle in loving my neighbour will become the means for deeper self-acceptance as it provides an opportunity to grow in ways that wouldn’t have been otherwise possible.

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