Updated: Oct 3
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.” ~ C.S. Lewis
I find this quote terribly interesting. At first glance, it seems C.S. Lewis is instructing us to refrain from loving -- for me, a literal impossibility. Upon closer inspection, I see that he doesn't say that at all, he simply says that if you do, you can count on it doing your heart some sort of damage. His next comment is not to give your heart to anyone, and I think therein lies the secret. In my estimation, he is drawing a distinction between loving and being attached -- between vulnerability and soul-sucking co-dependency.
There's a vast difference between giving of one's self, and relinquishing who you are to become wholly absorbed into another. Partnership, or friendship is the ebb and flow of sand and sea, one retreating while the other swells, and vice versa -- a rhythm, a balance. The sand never really leaves, even if erosion is apparent. It just moves locations, takes on an altered shape, and the sea changes course to move around it. Sometimes the change is tempestuous, sharp and difficult, and sometimes a slow wearing away, but both eventually result in a soft, smooth meeting of the two.
It is a mistake to think, as relationships of any kind develop, that in order to be strong they should be like cement, the load-bearing walls of all the other stresses of our lives. Perhaps instead, we should focus on their strength being in their flexibility, in their ability to move, adapt and adjust. Yet, how many of us make this exact mistake? How many of us pile up expectations of one another to create an insurmountable wall that even the most adept climber cannot scale? Worse yet, how many of us fasten these expectations to an unhealthy attachment, such that when things do start to shift and move, ebb and flow, our lack of flexibility causes us to become brittle and shatter?
The technical side of heartbreak
When you purchase a computer, a tablet, or a phone, you are generally aware of its fragility. It must be packaged and moved with care. It is sensitive to light and heat, to magnetism, to moisture, and to damage done by hackers. It requires virus protection and firewalls -- a military grade case to cushion the blow if you drop it.
When you send an email, or post a status online, you don't give the recipient your device. You use it as a tool to convey that which you are actually trying to give. As a matter of fact, most of us are extremely hesitant to hand another person our phone, even for a moment. We feel a deep-seated need to protect it. After all, it is vulnerable to so many forms of potential damage.
Does this frailty mean we stop using our phones or computers? Lock them in a safe where they can remain untouched and therefore impregnable? Of course not.
And if our device gets hacked, do we throw it away? No! We do whatever it takes to fix the issue and make it safe once more.
So is it with the heart.
Safety is not inherent in the device, just like it is not inherent in the heart itself. Safety is created by the owner. Firewalls must be added. Anti-virus software must be purchased and installed. Personal boundaries must be established and discussed. Expectations too. Responsibility must be taken for the health and well-being of one's own heart. Work must be done.
When we are vulnerable, we open ourselves willingly to pain. Despite our own levels of denial about it. We acknowledge the risk and walk headlong into it because we believe the benefits are worth the risk. As a result, we also spend much more energy on protection and safety once that security has been breached.
So, what is the difference between giving of your heart, and giving your heart?
You will know by the way it feels...
Just like your computer getting hacked feels different from it being stolen. It sucks, but it is repairable. You have the power to repair it. I mean, you might have to get someone else involved, depending on the severity of the breach, but you are empowered. You are the one with the impetus and the resources to get it handled.
So it is with modern heartbreak.
Love taken for granted is painful. An abuse of vulnerability can feel devastating. The perceived rejection of who you are, piercing your carefully constructed armor. These things can leave you feeling unsafe, hurt, and distrustful. Your heart, however, is still intact. It will need some repair. You might even have to talk with someone to get the assistance you need, depending on the severity of the breach, but you are still the responsible caregiver and keeper of your heart. You can replace the layers of protection through healing conversation, the deliberate removal of threats, and the addition of better constructed and reinforced boundaries. You can bathe it in self-love, like the waves on the shore removing unwanted marks and footprints. You can hold it gently close until it is ready to try to walk again, but with more developed and sturdy sea legs.
The key is YOU.
If you look deep, beyond the struggle, the loss, the fear and the pain, you see that YOU are still whole. You see that the only time you are not empowered in your own life, is when you willingly hand that power to someone else. You see that you have all the tools and resources to not only heal and protect your heart, but also to grow it and make it more capable of truly loving, separate from attachment.
It reads easy. It writes easy. It's not always so easy.
It takes work. It takes setting aside being right, or feeling right. It takes stashing your pride for a minute, or as long as the conversation takes. It takes looking your headstrong and stubborn ways in the eye and telling them you are really okay, and they can stand down for a moment. It takes a willingness to speak the truth to others, even if it is painful for you both. It takes focused deep breaths and the release of anger. It takes inner work to do the outer work. It takes whole-hearted willingness, and you may not be there yet.
That is okay. You are okay.
That computer will sit on your desk until you are ready to do something about getting it fixed. Your heart is going nowhere. It will be there too. In both cases, however, it is important to remember that at some point you will want to use each of them again. So, why not start taking the baby steps to get them ready for when you do? At your pace. In your time. With love, compassion and gratitude along the way.
In the meantime, dust it. Make sure it is in a temperature controlled space. Clean out its fans for good air flow. Take care of it in the state it is in. And when you can begin repairs, do.
I see you. I am you. Cosmically, we are one.
In wishing you no suffering, I also wish it for myself.
Embrace your power and heal.