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Love vs. Respect

Truth be told, most of us are afraid of close, intimate relationships.

George Bernard Shaw once remarked that he could not admire a lion tamer’s courage because, when the tamer was in the cage with the lions, at least people could not get to him. He was safer than the rest of us.

People scare us. We are afraid if we let people get too close they will take advantage of us or make too many demands. So we play it safe and keep them away, and, in the process, we rob ourselves of life.

Or we try to impress them. We want to do our jobs better than anyone else. We want to be right. We want to be good. We want to be strong. If only we can do all of that, or if we can make others think that we have done all that, then maybe they will love us. So our thinking goes, but that kind of thinking is upside down!

Here is the thing: If you always appear to be competent, right, strong, and good, other people will admire you and respect you, but they will not love you. They will not identify with you, and they will not get close to you. People love you and get close to you only when you let them know that you are as human as they are. A human with feelings, longings, pains, disappointments, weaknesses and all the things that human beings have. Admiration and respect are fine, but there comes a time when we would trade all of that for love, for closeness, for a sense of belonging to someone.

I hope that we can learn, once and for all, that we touch one another not at that point of strength, but at that point of weakness in our lives. Intimacy comes only when we allow someone else to see our vulnerability. If you are not willing to risk that you will never know closeness, and you will never know love.

Theologian Maxie Dunnam said in his book Dancing at My Funeral, “Living depends on loving. Loving depends on knowing. And knowing depends on risking.” He is right.


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