Our love is conditional.
We love others, but only when it is convenient for us.
We spend time with people, but only when we really want to.
We reach out and extend ourselves, but only if it fits into our own satisfactions.
I’m not trying to be negative or curt, I say these things because I am guilty of living my life with selfish, conditional love. But I’ve learned something –
I was wrong.
Four years ago I moved to Nashville and into a lovely purple room in the middle of the city. I had three other roommates in the house and we all had different jobs (some were still college students), priorities, schedules and lives. We lived there together comfortably and contently, at least for awhile.
Somewhere along the way things changed. We changed. Dynamics were no longer friendly and docile but passive and tense. There were moments where I found my stomach in knots when I pulled up to the house and their cars were in the driveway. Lies were exchanged. Walls were built. This house that was once a home was now a war zone. So I did what I thought made the most sense – I ran.
Fast forward to a couple years later. I randomly bumped into one of the roommates around town and eventually she reached out to me to catch up over coffee. I remember second guessing the date, afraid to reopen old wounds and wondering if there was some ulterior motive behind us meeting. But I knew I had to go. I just had to know why she wanted to meet.
We sat adjacent to each other at a coffee shop nearby. We chit-chatted about life and our families and we laughed as we recounted old memories (the good ones). Then she looked at me sincerely, pausing briefly before saying:
“I was wrong and I’m sorry.”
I’ve been working these past couple months on a project that’s titled I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry and I Love You. Ever since I started working on it, I haven’t been able to get this sentence out of my head. It’s fascinating how the heaviness behind those nine words, when formed together, have an indelible impact on its recipient.
Think about your conflicts, your fights, your frustrations and how they continuously gnaw at you. Sometimes you wonder if it isn’t the fact that you can’t let go, but that you won’t. For me, I find myself over analyzing and thinking about these lost relationships until my heart is raw. I put together scenarios, wondering if these hurts and burned bridges have had any affect on them at all and the more thought I put into it, the more callous I get.
But I have to be honest. While I may spend hours upon hours sharpening hypothetical pitchforks and writing about sucky friendships in my diary, I know that I would immediately lay down my weapons at the sound of those nine little words. I mean, wouldn’t you?
Last week I spent a few days in New York with my old roommate. We walked up and down the Highline, kayaked on the Hudson River, watched fireworks, went shopping and ate a lot of good food. By the end of the weekend, I still wasn’t ready to go and we contemplated extending my trip so we could spend more time together. As I was in the cab on my way to the airport, I thought about how different our relationship was just a few July’s ago when I was packing up my room into cardboard boxes. And if you had told me then that I would be so quick to let go of all the accumulated hurt, I wouldn’t have been able to fathom such a thing.
That’s the truth about real love – it’s unconditional. It loves in all circumstances and though life can interfere with pain and suffering, true love will always hope, it will persevere and it will never, ever fail.
We’re too quick to write off the relationships that have hurt us. We chronicle them away, half-expecting the other person to live with some deep-seeded regret for the rest of their lives. But they probably won’t and while their hypothetical sorrow fuels us in the moment, eventually our pits make us feel emptier than fulfilled. Maybe winning isn’t contingent on who is really wrong or right in the situation. Maybe what it really comes down to is deciding which is more important – restoring a relationship or proving a point.
I used to think it was the principle of it all. That at some point one of us has to back down and the moment you do, you lose. But as I looked out my window at the city skyline and relived all my favorite snapshots of the week, I realized that none of these memories would have been a reality if it hadn’t been for that day at the coffee shop. And while I, too, had just as many things to offer up and apologize for, it was her selfless act that made these future moments a possibility. She decided that our relationship was far more important than some twenty-something debacle and that it was something worth fighting for. It was because of her that our friendship had a shot at a better story.
Sometimes we choose to end chapters and wrap up stories too early. We write people off not so much because of the pain, but because of our pride. “It’s easier this way,” we convince ourselves. We refuse to let go, we refuse to forgive and we refuse to move on. But when we finally allow ourselves to let go of the past, we see how easy it can be to forget the things we thought we could never forget. Then, it doesn’t matter who was right.
I’m not saying you don’t have a right to feel hurt. I don’t know your situation, but you may be completely in the right and I’m sorry that you’ve been hurt the way you have. But right now, this not-speaking-to-each-other, not-healing-wounds season isn’t making you a winner either. I don’t think we’ll ever find peace and answers from holding on with clenched fists. But what if we can alter the course of fate by moving with open palms and open hearts?
Maybe the key to living with unconditional love and restoring relationships is simpler than we think. We’ve spent years tormenting ourselves, writing out pages of excuses and justifications when all along the act of surrendering our pride has always been nine words away:
I was wrong, I’m sorry and I love you.