People tell me their deepest secrets. Even strangers. I can meet someone during a morning walk, and by the end of two miles I’ve learned their husband beats them and they’re pregnant with twins. I’m not sure why people tell me things. Maybe it is because in some way they sense that I’ve been damaged too. At least that is how my friend, Deanna describes me. I love Deanna. I’ve never met a more lovingly blunt person in my life. She’s who I go to when I want a raw, honest answer. Whatever the reason, people tell me things and I listen. We often cry together and try to work out a solution.
In the last three months I’ve had four people confess to me they’d been molested as a child. Not all of them are local, or even people I knew for more than an hour, lest people try to imagine who it could be. Please don’t do that. Sometimes they email or call from far away. They wanted someone to talk to about it that would not judge them. They wanted a release for some of the emotions they have been bottling up for years. We don’t talk about what happened to them, because if it were me, I wouldn’t want to talk about that. Instead we talk about what they worry about now. There is a common theme I saw in all four of them, and others I know that have suffered in similar ways. The biggest is the feeling of something being wrong with them. As if they are not worthy to be loved.
They weren’t just speaking about romantic relationships, but relationships in general. One young man put it this way. “I always care about people way more than they care about me. It makes me wonder if something is wrong with me.” My heart broke in two listening to that young man. If it wouldn’t have been highly inappropriate, and I could have, I would have wrapped him in my arms and told him how much my heart ached for him to feel loved. To know that he was loved by many.
But, I know from experience that that wouldn’t have convinced him anyway. He’d need proof. I can’t furnish that. His sentiment isn’t unusual with people of similar experiences. Never had I wished I had more wisdom than I actually did than at that very moment. It wasn’t an easy thing for him to say to me. I know because I’ve uttered very similar words to my friend Vicki and it cost me a lot of private emotion to do so. The wisdom didn’t come. So I said the only thing that made sense to me.
I told him I think the problem is that we are surrounded by humans. The fact is people, including ourselves, are naturally selfish. Not necessarily evil, though there are many who have given way to evil ruling their lives. Our natural human framework for thinking is how it affects us. Rarely do we take time out in the midst of actions or conversations and put it in the framework of how it affects others. We are all like that to some extent. Some people stretch that farther than others, but we all do it. If you combine the natural idiocy of humans and the insecurities of people who’ve been very wounded, you get despair and pain.
I have found a solution though. At least personally. There is one person who will always love unselfishly. As a matter of fact, He tends to forget Himself quite a bit and focus on the needs of others. We never have to doubt that our Savior cares about us, or that He has an agenda and is manipulating us. Of course, I’m not naïve enough to think His love is because of any personal worth of my own. I know it is because of HIS personal worth. He loves, because that is who He is. I think there is something that everyone who has been wounded by their mortal existence can learn from that.
Probably the best way to counter not being loved is by loving. When we can forget about ourselves and pour our lives out elsewhere we get to feel real love. Not the temporary, selfish, human kind, but the kind our Savior wants us to know. His love. Charity. We don’t feel externally from others, but internally.
The first and most important place to do this is in our homes. Forget about our agendas and look at what are the needs of those around us. How can we help them meet their goals? However, we can even get selfish there, so we need to spread our wings a little and find people to love and serve outside the sphere of our little home. I feel the most at peace when I am bringing peace to others. You’ll find quickly that if you’re doing that for the wrong motive, you will not get the results you were expecting. If you’re serving others to get something out of it, even peace, you’re missing the point. We’re supposed to forget about ourselves and think about others.
That means when they are selfish and ungrateful, it doesn’t change our love. We’re not doing it for gratitude. We’re doing it to help others the way our Savior would. The peace and joy we get is just a side effect. Not a bad side effect though, huh? So this week, make it a point to find someone and serve them selflessly. Do something for someone, deserving or undeserving, that they need, but aren’t asking for.