Let’s enter into a moment of honest reflection, shall we? I’m going to ask you something personal and invasive. It may be uncomfortable, but bear with me and hopefully we can both learn something by the end of this.
What is the main factor motivating the commitment in your relationships?
Whether this is a relationship with a significant other, a close friend, a parent, a sibling, or someone else, there seems to be two contrasting factors that determine our feelings and actions toward those we love. And I want to argue that while our actions may appear the same outwardly, it’s what drives these actions that determine how we are motivated in our commitment to another person. These driving forces are either fear or love.
I’m not talking about fear in abusive contexts, for this is an unfortunate reality of relationships today and something that I have experienced firsthand. But rather, I’m talking about fear as the underlying force that keeps a relationship together. When we are driven to act lovingly to someone only because we are afraid to lose him or her, we miss the point. Fear murmurs, “I can’t (fill in the blank) because my boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, etc. will be upset with me.” Do you see the subtle hint of bitterness in that? The pseudo-“controlling” nametag you’ve casted upon the other person?
What we forget is that this belief is merely a product of our own fear-driven thoughts. Yes, maybe past experiences with a loved one has shaped what you realize you should and should not do in that relationship. But if you consider this thoughtfully and lovingly, and without resentment, then I would say you are committed from a platform of true love, rather than fear or bitterness. Love whispers, “Because I care about my [person]’s happiness, I’m going to strive to not act in a way that could potentially communicate anything but love.”
An atmosphere of fear says, “I’m not allowed to do this” or “If I decide to do that, he or she will never forgive me.” An atmosphere of love says, “I can’t believe I get the opportunity to do this” or “Maybe I could do something else instead.” The words in these phrases alone can help flip our thoughts in situations that demand committed and loving action. Fear tells us what we can’t or shouldn’t do…love tells us what we can and should do. Fear limits, love allows.
We live in a self-centered, individualistic, “my happiness is the only thing that matters” kind of culture. I get it. It’s hard to think about anyone but yourself when these are the messages you read, see, and hear everyday. But the problem is that when we are so focused on our own “happiness,” we are missing out on the beauty and magnificence of selfless and truly loving relationships.
Fear or love will motivate your actions in your deepest and closest relationships; the good news is we get to choose which one. Fear wounds us, while love heals us. Fear destroys relationships, while love builds them up. Fear is debilitating, while love is strengthening. And best of all, Love conquers fear.