The human heart longs to love and be loved, yet we are all too often afraid. We’ve been hurt, betrayed, abandoned, misunderstood, targeted, left out, and our love story has become a ghost story. The ghosts of loss and pain haunt us, warning us to hedge our bets and put up a shield to protect ourselves from further loss and rejection. Rejection is one of the most difficult experiences to bear; it touches our most primal pains of abandonment, echoing the mistaken belief that there is something wrong with us, that we are unworthy, unattractive, unlovable. Whatever form our injury takes—family trauma, abuse, or neglect by an overwhelmed family or a loveless institution—we may become afraid to love. We have trouble opening to love, even for ourselves. Yet each of us is a mysterious, unique, amazing being, fully worthy of love.
“Ultimately it is upon your vulnerability that you depend,” the poet Rilke writes. We are born and cared for by others, and we’ll die in the same way. For the time that we are here, we are dependent on the web of life. We eat from the farmers’ verdant fields, we trust other drivers to stay on their side of the road, we rely on the water department, the utility web, the electrical engineers, and the teachers, hospitals, and firefighters who sustain our lives. Listen to Mother Teresa: “If we have no peace, it’s because we’ve forgotten we belong to each other.” When we honor our vulnerability and our dependence on the community of life, we open to love.
Whatever blocks your love is, in the end, unreal. Take W.H. Auden’s advice and learn to “love your crooked neighbor with your own crooked heart.” Have courage. Tend to politics, care for the community around you, but remember in the end it is your love that matters most. Love is your gateway to freedom and your last word.