Saying we should love one another and that we should try to be with one another makes us play a marble game of rolling eyes. The cat eyes shoot out any seriousness talk of love from the circle of life. Love, connection and community seems more of a kid’s game before we lose our innocence and reality takes all of our marbles. Love makes for good movies and pipe dreams, but if one really tries to be with another, well, understand that disappointment will bully us into reality. People disappoint. People hurt each other. Being with another poses real dangers. If we are to be with another in authentic way, we have to know the thorns along the path.
Yes, one of the dangers of advocating being with people tends to down play the opposite. It seems that connecting with others should be a slam-dunk when compared to being disconnected. Being alone drives our loneliness and angst. Yet, the truth is that most of us are disconnected from each other. Even in our closest relationships, especially in our closest, most of will disconnect by a variety of ways such as manipulation, pretense of being alright, stonewalling, and so many others. Then years pass and we wake to realize that we have wasted our relationships. The protective shell becomes carbon fiber strong as we age and then we realize that there are very few, if any, people that we really close to. Our children never call, feel guilty when they are with us and cry at our funeral. They never know how weak we felt as we held on their first day of life, until they hold their own. The pattern repeats.
Of course, I am saying nothing new. This is as old as humanity itself. Our fear of connecting and love, our wanting to be over others instead of with others defines the structure of our history. Disconnecting from others out of fear or out of control protects us from the dangers of being with others.
Disconnection is about protecting ourselves. In the older psychosocial stereotypes, being disconnected protects our ego. Yet, protecting the ego sounds a bit selfish and really does not capture the very real threat to us in opening ourselves to love. Jesus, as incarnate love, ended on a cross. If God opens into vulnerability and suffers a cruel death, what hope is there for us? We all have a cross moment of loving only to suffer.
The first memory I have is of a beating I had at the hands of my father. I refuse to eat spinach and got black and blue. I use to think this is sad and it was rare. While it still sad, in most people I know, their first memories are profound moments of disappointment. The scramble of the four year old to protect himself and understand the pain of being bad for not eating spinach and the betrayal of a father’s love, became a large facet of my personality. The first moment, not the last, of being disappointed in love shades my interactions with others except when love breaks through the protection.
We call opening ourselves up to love, being vulnerable, and vulnerable means the possibility of real hurt. This threat does present a possibility of real pain. People know this and that is the reason vulnerability is a risk. While calling the pull to disconnection an egotism, we down play the threat that being with another does posses. Going down a double diamond run thrills us we do risk blowing out a knee. God understood this problem as when Jesus opened up to others, he was strung on a cross. Opening up to love does open ourselves to love, and to suffering. The pull toward disconnection moves us toward safety. We also move toward a non-living existence filled with frustration.
Since, we need to connect with others by disconnecting we slowly starve like a anorexic. The next solution we try to disconnect from some and connect with others. We call this trust. If we can trust another then we can open up. The problem with this is that how do we find people we trust? Most of us are very bad at placing trust. Also, all of will break trust. Second withhumans being are all weak as we are, we fail to realize that at one point we will all break trust and everyone in our lives will disappoint us. We retreat into our disconnected safety. The dance of life.
What to do? Before we risk we have to know the dangers. There will be crosses, but there will resurrections. Say yes to life means being with others; being with others will mean pain. Being with others also means joy, love and caring. Can’t have one with out the other. Dr. Brene Brown remind us that when we numb, we numb the good along with the bad emotion. I will go further, when we protect ourselves from hurt, we also shield ourselves from love. We need love. There is no way around it; being with others in a real way will bring love and suffering. While this sounds daunting, remember disconnecting from others will only bring numbness and ultimately only suffering. The best option remains the risk of being with the others humans we share life with.