By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. but in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis
I am grateful that a friend sent me the above quote, as it wonderfully states a vitally important subject that we all need to struggle with – to love or not to love.
I had to confront this issue when I had my first child. Having grown up as a very lonely only child, I had wanted children ever since I could remember. I wanted to experience the sweet innocence of a baby’s laugh and the happy sound of children playing. I want so much to give my love to a child. But I wasn’t prepared for the overpowering feeling of love that I had when my first child was born. It felt as though my heart would burst out of my chest. And, of course, along with the profound love, came the fear. What if something happened to him? Could I survive his loss? How can I love fully alongside this fear?
When my first grandchild was born, my daughter faced the same dilemma. “How can I let myself love so much when loss is always possible?” And she came to the same conclusion that I did – that I would rather love fully, even if I end up losing the person I love rather than hold back and never experience to profound joy of loving fully. The saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never loved at all,” took on great meaning for me.
Yet in my work with individual, couples, and parents, I see that many people do not have the courage to love fully. Some choose not to be in a relationship for fear of loss. Others choose not to have children for fear of loss. Some do enter relationships and have children but hold back, being too afraid of not being able to survive loss if they should lose their loved one.
What they don’t realize is that what C.S. Lewis stated is so true – “The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” They think they can get away with not fully loving. They don’t realize that their emptiness is from NOT loving. Living with a sense of emptiness is a very sad way to live. Better to feel the grief, heartbreak and loneliness of loss than to live empty due to choosing not to love fully.
I want to encourage you to take the risk of opening your heat and loving. After all, this is what life is all about! If you hold back on loving due to fear of loss, you miss out on the greatest joy that life has to offer.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books, relationship expert, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® process – featured on Oprah. Visit her website at http://www.innerbonding.com for more articles and help.