Finding God on Gannon’s campus: Toxic relationships differ drastically from unconditional love


Love is an overarching theme in the Bible and a mindset many Christians use to guide their lives.
I find that many people living out this commandment run into unexpected trouble and harm. It’s ironic that a concept that often seems so kind and gentle can lead its followers into hurt.
The kind of hurt I’m talking about is from loving in a way that harms the one spreading love. I’d hate to say someone could love the wrong way, but I definitely think there are times that call for an adjustment in approach to people and situations in our lives.
I’ve been told countless times to “love unconditionally,” and I feel the depth of truth in that. I just think that approach doesn’t look the same for every person and situation I encounter.
I want to explain this by going into a classic grade school example of friendship that all too often finds itself in adult life.
In this scenario, there is a person who tries her absolute best to love her friends with vigor and often shows and speaks of her love for this group. She listens when they speak, always has their back and offers kind words and compliments to them often.
However, these friends are complete opposite to her in values. Love is a word that means little to them and has many conditions. They are unkind often, they put her down and they avoid supporting her as if doing so would kill them.
This girl is trying so hard to be a good friend to them, but their behavior toward her is draining. She thinks to herself that love means standing by them no matter what because they are her friends. She tells herself that if she tries harder to be good to them, she will eventually get the support she truly deserves from them in return for her goodness.
This example clearly puts a lot of polarity between this girl and her friends, but I think many relationships and life problems can feel like this to varying degrees.
Sometimes people allow themselves to sit in a pool of toxicity while justifying the burn by telling others, “It’s not this deadly chemical’s fault for injuring me.” Even crazier is to think from inside this pit that telling the evil nice things will stop the damage from progressing. Some fire extinguishers just aren’t big enough for the fire.
This is what it feels like to love so much that it hurts.
What I hope I can make transparent is the fact that it is possible to still spread love while stepping out of the line of fire. Helping others see the light of Christ shouldn’t cause intense emotional or physical harm to someone.
It is also very possible to be understanding of why people may spread hate and be hurtful, while personally making the choice to love them anyway and step out of harm’s way. Jesus chose love on the cross when he said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” in Luke 23:34.
Some lights cannot break through the hearts of people who aren’t ready to open their lives to them. God knows this and understands when the best effort has been put forth and it’s time to move on.
It’s important to love others unconditionally but doing so doesn’t mean drowning in toxicity. Acknowledge the hurt, love them anyways, then get up and out of the pool of fire.

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