“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Thank you, C.S. Lewis.
I’ve been thinking about these words lately, especially in the quest to untangle the biases woven into my heart and surroundings. There’s a lot that needs to be uprooted; this has become a season for removal and replanting. A season of making space for those who have been pushed aside. They are real people, those voices crying out from the books and podcasts and blogs. They are flesh and blood, with hearts exposed. How brave, to be so open, especially after so much pain.
That vulnerability deserves to be met with something even greater than dismantled bias. That is the minimum, and we must go beyond it- we must actively support and embrace a future where those most marginalized are free to lead beautiful, messy, wonderful lives.
In the meantime, I’ve noticed that I hold a little bit more bias than I thought, in a lot more places than I thought. It’s at work, with patients who I assume will irritate me before I’ve spoken to them. It’s on dating apps, as I swipe by men with certain careers before I’ve seen their profiles. It’s in social situations, when I wander closer to the girls who look like me. I’ve done it at home, at church, in stores, online. It’s everywhere.
I’m beginning to wonder if the ideal, someday, would be for us operate with no bias at all. Is it possible to encounter each new person, each new situation, without considering the experiences behind us? Without letting the negative lessons we’ve learned about one person influence our interaction with the next person? Harder still- is it possible to untangle those predispositions when we meet the same person, but in a new moment? To perpetually offer the benefit of the doubt and maintain a disposition of charity, a complexion of peace?
I’m not suggesting a boundary-less life or existing blind to the behaviors of those who have hurt us. I’m sure it is appropriate to form opinions and act according to whatever information we are presented with. However, this intentional living, perhaps, does not exclude unbiased loving. Whatever we’ve chosen to move towards or away, we can do with a spirit of love. We can act with generosity and hold a heart for goodwill, whether that is from near or from far. We may have chosen to distance ourselves from someone or something in self-preservation or self-love, but we can still find peace, forgiveness, and hope.
I’m sure it’s the way God meets each of us, in each of our moments. It’s the way He meets me- not as the isolated, flawed piece of me that snapped at my sister an hour ago, or yelled at the guy who cut me off- but each moment, fresh, as if it’s the first most lovely moment He’s encountered me for all that I am at my worst and my best, and in that meeting He has still found me good.
He offers a blank slate, over and over and over again; His love always available, always renewable. Maybe it’s better than a blank slate- instead, it’s love like a fire in the winter, shade in the summer, the warmth of friendship in loneliness. As good, and always as good, as the first leap into a pool on a hot day or the first sip of coffee in the morning. It’s the first page of your favorite book, when somehow you’ve forgotten the plot points, so you relive it, in all it’s goodness, over and over and over.
This love is lovely, in theory. It works for God. In practice, for humans, it’s harder.
Hard to become anti-racist, in a world that’s pumped it into our veins.
Hard to do at work, to meet the next patient, who acts like the last patient, with fresh, kind eyes.
Hard to do with new friends, when you’ve been bullied or burned by old ones.
Hard to do with men, when the ones before insulted, disappointed, cheated, or lied.
Hard to do with yourself, when the world has found that you aren’t quite enough.
It’s all hard. And it’s a surefire way to get hurt, this constant vulnerability. Ask C.S. Lewis. Ask Jesus. Ask your teachers, your nurses, your parents. There’s no guarantee that your openness will be matched; do it anyway. Bring your scraped knees and hearts to the source of the most perfect eternal, renewable love, then pull yourself up and offer love again. It’s the least we can do, when we’ve been given so much.
This life isn’t for hiding or isolating, but for picking up our tired selves and meeting another moment, another person, or our very selves, with love, again. And then again.
It’s not easy. It’s messy. But it must be done, this unbiased loving. It’s the only way we’ll be free.