To love is to risk rejection, to live is to risk dying and to hope is to risk failure. But risk must be taken because the greatest mistake in life is to risk nothing at all. To reach for someone is to risk being involved, to expose your feelings is to expose your true self. To love is to risk not being loved in return.
Take a minute to think about your own history of love, heartbreak, relationships. Maybe you had your heart broken more than once or maybe you have never allowed yourself to love fully in order to protect yourself from getting hurt. Whichever one it is, we can easily become conditioned to never allowing anyone near our heart for our own self-preservation. It’s hard to let someone in when you’ve got those chains wrapped firmly around your heart; but here’s the thing….in closing our heart to the risk of heartbreak we may create a living hell for ourselves. The truth is that whilst heartbreak is extremely painful, it is not nearly as painful as the hell we create for ourselves when we hold back loving out of fear of getting hurt.
C.S Lewis, novelist and poet, had an awful lot to say about love and risks in one of his books, The Four Loves which explores the nature of love from a philosophical and Christian perspective through thought experiments:
‘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 an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.’
All sounds pretty grim hey? But he does make a pretty good point of what the alternative is to not taking a risk on Love. So, let’s look at this word LOVE. What is the opposite of love? The automatic answer is ‘hate’, but that is wrong. The opposite of love is fear . Fear is the fundamental negative emotion. So, if we want love we must conquer fear. We must take personal risks for big potential romantic rewards. Don’t bother test driving a relationship for 5 years, or searching for someone so perfectly matched that they remind you of a sibling.
Love is supposed to be a little scary because it is uncertain. In my work as a counsellor I often see clients who are unable to make changes to their lives due to fear and anxiety. They are so focused on the fear and what they don’t want they become paralysed and unable to make changes. A simple change in the way we think can be very powerful. Consider this for a second-‘ Stop focusing on what you don’t want and focus on what you do want.’ You feel the difference? We need to remember this when considering love too.
Taking the risk of allowing yourself to love again takes courage. Courage means feeling the fear of rejection and loss but pursuing love anyway. That takes us to that funny little saying that we are so familiar with, ‘Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all!’
Be mindful though that the pain of losing one relationship is not transferred to a new relationship. It is wise to use our past negative experiences of love as a point of reference but be sure to leave them at the door of a new relationship. When we have been hurt we are supposed to remember how that felt as this helps us grow and evolve as a human being. Feel the fear, take notice but be sure to remind yourself that this was a past experience and leave it there. Don’t assume you will have the same experiences in a new relationship or it will be over before it even began!