Loving Till it Hurts (Pt 1)
I have always thought about goodness in relation to love and the body. Can goodness be measured? If so, when can acts of goodness define a person as good? Is it the ability to see a person with all his or her flaws and imperfections and love them regardless? If goodness is shown to a person and the person does not show goodness to the next recipient, should that person be punished?
Goodness in a person is based on his or her capacity to inspire and draw out goodness from another individual. I personally feel inspired to be good when I read about past example of goodness. I think of Francis of Assisi who surrendered his wealth to follow God’s will for his life. He spent his life building churches, feeding the homeless and caring for animals. His story of selfless love and humility encourages me to have a more satisfying life for myself that is not about serving the self but rather to serve others.
I think that goodness is a gift and a way of life, rather than a bond or a contract that ties you to reciprocity or a “pay it forward” mentality. Goodness is bestowed by an individual and it is not based on the receiver’s merit or value. It is open-ended and given with no expectation, but acceptance of the other person and their humanity. Only love can change hate and deception. This is what frees me and allows me to see the truth of my identity.
But I realized one thing: once we open ourselves to love and mercy, we become goodness itself. When we reject being cold, aloof and apathetic, it is then we begin to live an authentic religious life. As women, we have our share of burdens and do most of the soul searching process gradually. I personally struggle with constantly loving others and striving to serve them before myself. I struggle with vulnerability and being openly weak and showing my true self to others. Everyone wants to embrace the vitality of life, whether they realize it or not. I longed for fulfillment and I wish I wasn’t tarnished by the world’s expectations and judgment. Suffering is what I was most familiar with, it was an uncomfortable comfort that gave my life a sense of steadiness.
However, there came a point where I had to be more truthful about my past and be more open to solving my issues. I had to realize this truth: my past does not define me.
I grew up in a skeleton of a town–a blueprint and an idea of a town but not an actual community because it lacked substance and tangible attachment. The neighbors were immersed in their own lives and busyness, they hid behind their routine and go about “minding their business” to make ends meet and continue their lives. I missed the idea of a solid, family-oriented community that offered forgiveness and companionship without expecting anything in return. Our family’s brokenness always followed us, it didn’t matter what noble jobs I pursued or our character, our family was ostracized and left with nothing real to hold as our own. My single mother was drained and robbed of her time, vitality and love by playing prisoner to a town that only put her down with their gossip.
Similar to my town that strived to be status-quo and decent but really brought made my family feel isolated, I realized that I also am torn between being both a “vulture” and a “saint.” My conflict of identity lied in my unhappiness and the lack of fulfillment in my life. I preyed on escape and longed to be someone else. I also wanted to be holy and be close to God and would judge those who thought differently. By constantly judging and weighing my life’s value in relation to my friends’ quality of life, I was lost in a cycle of comparison and dissatisfaction.
Dealing with Suffering and Poverty
I would uses others’ suffering, both real and movie characters, to make myself feel better about my situation or I would escape by buying a new pair of jeans, watching a movie or pretending nothing was wrong. I became highly sensitive and highly apathetic at the same time. I became closer to pain but was also desensitized to it, so I would read sad articles or hear people’s stories to see if it would invoke pity and feeling inside myself. By reminding myself of suffering, I was reassured of my good fortune, my humanity and my purpose in the world. But when it got too much, I’d turn off the news and put on a comedy movie to forget. I believed that it was my task to reduce the world’s pain, distress and guilt would follow when I realized I could not fix the situation. I saw that I was trying to experience the reward of helping others but when the painful reality sunk in, I could not handle the excessiveness of suffering. But I realized something: I could not be everyone’s savior and that’s okay.
When I witness poverty or social injustice, these issues are entertained as parts of my life because the infirmity of others reminds me of my own strength and purpose. The poor take on the ugliness, the poverty, the pain and suffering of the world. But I realized something: I am also poor. I am poor in courage, in conviction and in hope. I try to give myself freely to the world and refuse to be taken or possessed by anyone. I feel like I am expected to offer a reward or gratification to the town and the world. However, when I fail or I have not achieved, I feel like my function is not fully delivered. I want to receive comfort, love and compassion, I want to feel fulfillment but I end up feeling pity and pain. I never feel like I am doing enough.
I wish I could love even when others are rude and despicable to me, to love as a choice and love them more at their worst than their best is a personal struggle of mine. Like a mother’s love, I want to give and allow myself to be emptied and endures all pain. But I want to keep my self-preservation. I don’t want to sacrifice peace, I already have so little of it. I know so many others desire and hunger for love, I can sense the brokenness and loneliness. We only have experienced temporary love: people move, friends distance themselves but we crave permanent love. The kind that lasts and endures beyond the feelings. I want to belong, to have a home and embody a sense of family. I want to be given a new chance to experience true community, but I want it handed to me. I don’t want to be uncomfortable, I want to be served solely for my gain and to conceal my weaknesses.
Longing for a Home
I am trying to build a friendship and sense of community and home with those who suffer, but I cannot even bring that sense of home and love in my own household. By choosing the homeless over my own family’s needs, I am privileging the satisfaction of altruism that comes from helping the poor over spending time with my own mother. Although I am not impoverished by physical circumstance, I am impoverished in spirit and buy my family’s love because I have forgotten how to connect with them. I cannot relate to what I do not know. Although I try to be compassionate and empathize, I do not know what it is like to be homeless or experience loss, which is why I cannot truly know suffering until I have experienced my own pain. I desire a home that I never had as a girl. As I traded my beauty and heart to feel secure and beautiful, I realized I was killing my ability to experience and know pure love that goes beyond the body and into the soul.
I longed for a home, to be cared for and to belong. By living in a decrepit, transparent facade of a house, our family lied to ourselves that we were happy and the rest of the town believed that they were indeed “good” and “honest” people for shunning our family. I was like a selfish child, I could only imagine my own suffering, experiences and joy. I endured a lot of pain because of families gossiping about my family, and I went through a stage of revenge and unforgiveness. I wanted the community to feel the pain I felt so they would learn a lesson. I want to have closure from my past and receive a lesson that will make sure that I will never be hurt again. But I will be hurt. I just need to see who’s worth the pain and who will respond.