I was reading a post on Facebook by Sharon Astyk (here is her quiet-for-now blog) who used a personal example of a crisis in her life to explain that we really don’t understand our fellow countrymen right now, and we are only just now realizing we have been completely miscommunicating for a long time. That we need to sit down and really listen to discover how our neighbors see the world because it might be radically different than we do. In the comments (I know, never read the comments, but her Facebook friends are generally very respectful), someone remarked, “We all desperately want to be “read” by others, and (at least for me) it’s so hard to get past innate self-centeredness and lack of communication skills. And yeah, a neighbor could be all the things we fear. Love is stronger than fear, but is expensive. But why else are we here? We’re all so needy and broken.” Love is expensive. Is it?
The cost of love
I want to explore this concept, about love being expensive. I ran a Google search for the cost of love, and I discovered there is a movie by that name, as well as a Linda Ronstadt song. Most of the other search results were about the financial costs of dating and weddings. It wasn’t until the fifth page of results, that I found anything remotely helpful in my research. So here are the costs I can come up with.
It costs us selfishness. We can’t make all of our decisions based entirely on ourselves, we have to take into account the people that we love.
It can cost us pride. Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and admit when we are wrong. Unless we are narcissistic, we will do that for those we love.
It can cost us dignity. There may be times when someone we love needs us to roll up our sleeves and get dirty, so to speak.
It can cost us opportunities. We may be offered an opportunity that we want, but that comes at the cost of hurting someone we love. That is a real cost that cannot be overlooked.
I think the biggest cost, though, is vulnerability. When we love someone, we let ourselves be vulnerable. We show our imperfections and weaknesses. In love, we trust that those weaknesses won’t be exploited.
The cost of fear
Those sound like potentially harsh costs for love. Maybe love is expensive. But before we make our final decision, let’s look at the cost of fear. Everything has a cost, after all.
It can cost us opportunities. Yes, just like love, fear can cost opportunities. Not building relationships means that people won’t think to offer you opportunities as they arise. Fear also costs us opportunities when we are pessimistic about the returns on our investments of time and energy.
It can cost us our health. Fear is a very stressful state in which to live, and there is an abundance of evidence that stress breaks down our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to disease.
It can cost us companionship. If we close ourselves off to love, we will have no one with whom to celebrate our joys or share our pains. Difficult times in our lives become entirely ours to bear.
It can cost us resources. We can invest a large number of resources into protecting ourselves from something that may or may not exist. Fear is very skilled at hijacking the imagination to make mountains out of molehills.
It can cost us wisdom. Fear prevents us from seeing other points of view, which can affect the decisions we make. If knowledge is the accumulation of information, and wisdom is the application of that knowledge, then fear robs us of the knowledge we need to make wise decisions.
It can cost us freedom. When we are afraid, we put up limits to keep the object of our fears at bay. But really, all we are doing is denying ourselves full freedom to do as we please. Building a fence to keep the world out is the exact same thing as building a prison for yourself.
Fear is a greedy jerk who will hold you hostage. Only love can afford to pay the ransom. Sure, maybe love is expensive, but not nearly so much as fear. So let us reach out in love to our neighbors and strangers and seek to understand each other. Let us hear their fears. In their love for us, they will allow us to speak our fears in turn. Accept that their fears are as real to them as yours are to you. Only by overcoming our fear with the less expensive currency of love can we build the relationships we need to heal ourselves and each other.
Do you feel like you are held hostage by fear? How do you reach out in love to your neighbors?