A little known fact about me: I am afraid of fish. I can’t clean out the fish tank and my family enjoys making a spectacle out of it by chasing me around the house with fish heads that they caught. I think it all started when one of our Beta fish jumped out of the tank and my sister retrieved it with her bare hands from the floor.
The point of this is—we all have some kind of fear, whether it be an irrational fear of fish or squirrels, or a fear of loneliness, abandonment, public speaking, blood and needles, flying, catastrophic weather. Fear can sometimes drive our daily habits. For example, if I am xenophobic, or afraid of others, I might live in a place that I don’t see many people, I might choose to do my grocery shopping at odd hours, and I might avoid crowded places.
Fear was the topic of conversation at church on Sunday: when we live out of this fear, we prevent ourselves from experiencing some of the most beautiful parts of life. The sermon was in the context of the birth of Jesus and all the places in The Bible that say, “Do not be afraid”, which is actually quite a lot. As humans, we are very afraid of the unknown. However, God wants us to give up our control and expectations and revel in the fact that everything will be ok in the end.
I think, of anything, the most common place we see this idea of fear is within relationships. We are afraid to let ourselves fall in love and often hold ourselves back for a variety of reasons: does this person feel the same way about me as I do them? What if this person breaks my heart and leaves me bleeding at the end? How will this person reflect on me? What will my parents think? What if I do or say something really embarrassing? What if I waste my time and in the end, it doesn’t work out and how will I heal? Can I trust this person with my secrets?
When you take a closer look at it, all of these reasons actually stem from a very selfish root: we are afraid that falling in love with someone will expose something about ourselves that we are not willing to deal with. It means that we are vulnerable, dependent on other people, and perhaps not as strong or as experienced or as together as we make ourselves out to be.
However, no one has ever died of heart break, so it is obvious we are built to be durable creatures.
We have this idea in our society that we all have A soul mate: one, singular soul mate and no one else. So, we hold ourselves back from relationships, searching for that ONE soul mate, because we don’t want to give something away about ourselves too quickly or too rashly. It is this idea that, “If I let myself fall in love with this one person, then I am going to ruin that experience for my next relationship if this one doesn’t work out”. So, again, we let fear drive our decisions.
But what if, as humans, our capacity to love extends outside of just ONE soul mate? What if we have the ability and the destiny to love as many people as possible? Now, I am not condoning having ten relationships at one time, because I do not believe that is fair to anyone. But, chronologically, throughout our lives, perhaps we are meant to fall in love a few times over again, each one different, and each one teaching us something distinct about ourselves and the world.
And, what if we shift our perspective to this idea about the relationships we are entering—not letting ourselves be afraid, but opening ourselves up to new adventures, new experiences, new ideas? It could be a very freeing concept. It takes a little bit of faith, but what if we just let ourselves love and be loved?