Word-y Gifts for Christian Faith & Life

Hearts and valentines …

Hearts are an apt symbol for love. They are, after all, the innermost sanctum of our being and the secret-keeper that knows how we really feel about our most intimate relationships. The heart knows if we love someone or are simply connected to them by law, fear, living arrangement, or some other practical consideration. A few days ago, I sat in a beautiful hall and listened to an orchestra play classical music inspired by the tragic love stories of Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde and Francesca da Rimini. The conductor introduced the Valentine’s Day concert by joking that like love, the performance was unlikely to end well, and the audience chuckled in amusement (and agreement, perhaps). The response seemed a collective admission that love or loving someone can be, to put it mildly, complicated. It is an interesting sentiment, especially when contrasted with the Bible’s optimism about love (just read the soaring stuff in 1 Cor. 13 and Song of Solomon!).  I tend to believe our most intimate relationships would be less complicated if we learned to be a little more honest with ourselves and partners about what is really going on in our hearts.

It is ironic that our closest relationships tend to be some of our least honest. In hidden parts of our hearts, we hold onto difficult unspoken truths because we are too afraid to admit them to ourselves and of what might happen if we speak. Sometimes the truth is that we wish we had never entered the relationship and we feel trapped, do not feel safe and secure with our loved one, may not believe we are loved in return, or, because of past experiences, we neither respect nor trust our partner. Left unspoken and unaddressed, these hard truths and beliefs tend to have a detrimental impact on our relationships because they prevent us from giving ourselves freely and fully to the relationship. Moreover, harboring such feelings about our most intimate relationships makes us bitter, resentful and susceptible to seeking fulfillment in inappropriate ways.

We must recognize that love deepens and flourishes in honesty. It is through telling the truth and addressing difficult truths together that our relationships become closer, safer and more secure. In honesty, we give our loved ones the opportunity to truly know and accept (or reject) us, and we are freed from the exhausting and burdensome work of pretending. Dishonesty is like a rock that stops a root from penetrating deeper into the soil. The plant may live, but it never becomes all it could or should be. This Valentine’s weekend, do yourself a favor, examine your heart and commit to giving your closest relationships a true gift from the heart—honesty.

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