As a child, there was a female in our family in a prominent position who spread rumors, gossip and lies about other women. In so doing, she was able to sequester our father, and keep him all to herself. As a result, my father had very little contact with his children for decades.
A lot of people will say, “There are two sides to every story.“ In that experience, there were indeed two sides to the story. There were the lies, and there was the truth. The gossip, rumors and lies were very loud and ever present. Sometimes they were built upon a small amount of truth, which would be blown completely out of proportion, and into a crisis. Other times, they were completely fabricated. All of the lies added up to an ultimatum. “Do you choose them or me?”
Love doesn’t like to enter into the fray and fight like a liar. Even when attacked, love never seeks to harm, not even an attacker. (When the weapons are words, and the person caught in the cross-fire is a loved one, it’s hard to make a case for self-defense.) So, love, and truth, might retreat. However, even on the horizon, or out of view, love is still love and the truth is still the truth. They are quiet, constant fires that refuse to be extinguished. They gather their strength. Their return will not be loud.
In a sense, love never left. My wishes and prayers were constant for my father. As I gained understanding about the mental health challenges of the woman who had sequestered him, and the abuse she had suffered in her life, I slowly developed compassion for her. I practiced loving unconditionally, while also protecting myself from attacks. I lived far away, but attempted short visits. At first, it was only a meal every year or so. That led to more contact, but never long, and always with an eye on my back and the exit.
In all fairness, I cannot say that I loved the attacker. However, I was able to get to the point where I had compassion toward her. And the lesson that I took away from the experience is that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Resentments are a heavy load to carry. As Carrie Fisher was fond of saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
I also learned that real love is constant and quiet. Fear, jealousy and insecurity are loud. Love would never seek to harm others, or separate a family member from their tribe. When insecurities dominate the channel of one’s emotions, they can create maliciousness. I guess that is why love and all of her close companions (compassion, kindness) require practice. The heart is a muscle. It’s pretty easy to feel and taste when I am letting resentment, fear, jealousy, etc. try to steer my emotions.
Real love remains constant and awaits the day that you knock on her door. And when you do, you are greeted with an open heart and loving arms.
Love is honorable and doesn’t need to bring others down. There is no malicious gossip on the tongue of a truth-telling lover. Even when someone is headed on the wrong path, there is no need for carping. Compassion might be the warmth that guides the lost back home.
So my wish for each of us today is that we immerse ourselves in love, and her companions of warmheartedness, kindness and truth.
My father now has a good relationship with all of his children. Because love always wins. Happy Valentine’s Day.
With love to you, and gratitude for you being in our tribe,
The featured picture is a scan of a greeting card from 1909. It is in the public domain and available on Wiki Commons. Used with permission.