About a month ago, I had a project in school that required me to research someone who was known for having a lot of money, but someone who had used their money for good. I of course researched Bill and Melinda Gates, who have made massive donations to public health with their millions (billions??) of dollars. (Stay with me please, I’m going to relate this to Jesus, I promise!!)
Let me start off by stating the obvious: Relationships in the 21st century are weird. Maybe it has always been this way (I’m only 20, so I wouldn’t know) but the weirdest thing about human interaction is that we are most kind to those who are least kind to us, and least kind to those who are most kind to us. Does that sound unnatural to you? Me too.
If you’re reading this and you’re a gentle girl living in a harsh world, I’m sorry. I’m sorry because I know what the pattern of your life has most likely been like so far. You are naturally full of love, encouragement, and joy and want to share that with others. You are super intentional. You text to see how your friend’s big test went. You ask people to call as soon as they make it home safely. You go all out for others’ Christmas presents and plan surprises when the birthdays come along. And when you do, 9 times out of 10 it is taken for granted, taken advantage of, or just seen as weak and not respectable. This happens with all kinds of relationships--romantic ones, friends, even family.
You’ve learned to combat this by putting walls up and keeping people at an arms length, because once you did, you started getting treated better. Once you closed yourself off, others started caring for you--asking how your test went, planning your surprise birthday dinner, carving out places in their schedule for you. And it all seemed great, except for the fact that you have to stifle this very strong, very natural urge to be loving, because it has hurt you countless times before.
I understand why you’re doing this, but here’s my advice (from someone with LOADS of experience from doing this) : don’t.
Don’t put the walls up. Don’t sacrifice this innate need that you have to speak love to others, because I promise, in this world it is a rare thing. Keep prioritizing people, even if they don’t prioritize you. I’m not saying not to guard your heart--if someone is genuinely draining your energy and taking advantage of you, that isn’t okay. I’m just saying, don’t constantly mute something that God specifically gifted you with, which is the gift of kindness, and intentionality, and love.
The awesome thing about our God is that the more we “plug in” to Him, and really feel His presence, the more He supplies us with love. The more we worship, or pray, or read His word, the more He pours into us. His purpose in pouring into us isn’t so we can selfishly keep it to ourselves, it’s so that we can be so full that we overflow into other people. And the more full we are, the less we depend on reciprocation of others.
It’s what I call being the Bill Gates of love (told you I would tie this back in)! The way good ole Bill has so much money that he freely gives it away, have so much love that you freely give it away. And don’t question whether someone can reciprocate or not. I’m pretty sure Bill Gates doesn’t ask the charities that he donates to, to pay him back. Better yet, I’m pretty sure Jesus wasn’t wondering if you loved Him back when He took up a cross for you.
Is it still going to suck when your “how’s your day going?!” texts get ignored, or when that one friend who only really calls when they need something hits you up yet again, or when your compliments are blown off? Absolutely. But with a little bit of Jesus, it stops hurting so much. Be brave enough to stop keeping your love holed up. Be brave enough to go from inner light to light of the world.
“We love because He first loved us.”
-1 John 4:19