Relational Health

Love is Patient, Love is Kind?

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“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
-1 Corinthians 13

Wouldn’t life be much less complicated if love was truly always patient and kind? If unrequited love could only be found in works of fiction? If a mutual love, whether familial, platonic, or romantic, would be enough to guarantee the other person would never hurt you?

As much as I adore this passage in 1 Corinthians, love does not guarantee a lack of pain, cruelty, mistakes, or grief. Holding its place as one of the most beautiful emotion bonds on earth, this also allows for vulnerability and broken hearts. When relationships end in destruction, one or both people often question if love was ever present at all; or, they insist “that is not what love is.”

Still, the hard truth remains:

People with whom you do not share love cannot have that kind of control over your emotions.

If someone can hurt you so irrevocably, that ability links to the point when you gave them a piece of yourself, let them into your heart, shared with them the very essence of your being, and trusted them to preserve it.

It is easy to insist that love was never there in the first place; it’s more difficult to accept that love is precisely why someone’s words or behavior had the power to tear your hopes and dreams into a million pieces, leaving nothing in its wake but an aching hole of nothingness in your chest.

I am not saying that the only way to protect yourself from pain is to shut out anyone you are tempted to let into your heart. I can’t say that, because while love has the power to destroy, it is also what keeps us alive, vibrant, and hopeful. Life quickly becomes meaningless without authentic, intimate connections with other people. Survivors do not try to avoid the pain of heartbreak altogether, but decide who is worth loving despite knowledge that pain in relationships is inevitable.

In treatment I embarked on the journey of healing from trauma. The people who hurt me the most were the people I loved the most. As a survivor of emotional abuse, I was informed of the high rates of re-victimization. I was warned that as a result of what I went through, I was at high risk of bonding with people who would inflict the same kind of pain on me, and the cycle of abuse would continue.

Thinking about the possibility re-victimization explained a lot, and it gave me the motivation I needed to take control of my life. As I delved into my past, I was able to identify relationships over the years that mirrored the abusive relationship of my youth; I also identified current relationships that had the potential to inflict the same kind of emotional trauma.

Through my journey, I have realized that good people can sometimes do bad things.

Of course, it is much less frightening to view the world in binaries: good vs. evil, love vs. hatred. Convincing ourselves that we can recognize “the bad guys” before they hurt us gives us a false sense of security in an unpredictable world. The people who hurt me were not heartless monsters – they loved me deeply and also emotionally traumatized me. Contrary to what many believe, the two are not mutually exclusive.

As I have embraced this gray area of relationships, I have learned that sometimes you can keep people in your heart, but it is not safe or beneficial to keep them in your life. In the case of people I loved who I knew would repeatedly hurt me, I had to say goodbye and move on. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe that the love we shared was real, but it does mean that my emotional safety and self-respect has to come first. In the case of people who hurt me, but who also have the desire and potential to change – I want to forgive, learn to trust them again, and move forward in those relationships. I want our love to last a lifetime.

Perhaps the ugly, yet liberating, truth is this: Love is patient. Love is kind. Sometimes love envies, boasts, and is proud.

Sometimes love dishonors others, is self-seeking, easily angered, and keeps track of wrongs. Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres, but it also destroys, betrays, despairs, and hesitates. Love never fails, but we have the choice to let go of the people we love even as they remain in our hearts…or not. The choice is ours.

Jessica has a B.A. in Psychology and Women's Studies and is pursuing a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She is passionate about social justice and hopes to make a difference in the lives of others and advocate for social change. Having recovered from an eating disorder, Jessica is committed to spreading the word that freedom from eating disorders is possible. Through her writing at Libero, Jessica hopes to empower those struggling with eating disorders to fight for the health and happiness that they deserve.

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1 Comment

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  • Jess, this is incredible. It actually brought a few tears to my eyes (haha). Although some of the toxic relationships in my life might not be labeled “abusive,” this still spoke to me on many different levels. When you said, “sometimes you can keep people in your heart, but not in your life,” it helped me believe that it is okay to let certain people go, which is something I have really been struggling with lately.

    So, thank you for showing me that it’s okay to take care of myself and let go of unhealthy relationships. Your writing is incredibly smart and thoughtful. <3