Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Childlike Trust

I asked my five-year-old nephew, “Who loves you?” He looked at me and confidently said, “You.” His boldness and lack of hesitation made me wonder how our adult lives would be if we had the same certainty. What if we unapologetically believed in love?
Children trust deeply. They are confident that those who love them do so unconditionally. Children don’t believe that love can be threatened by dependency or by asking for help. As we get older, we come to the conclusion that love has conditions and alter our behavior to fit within those confines.
Without question we need to be treated with grace. Unconditional love does not give others a pass to be flippant with our feelings. Yet as we grow older, we teach ourselves that those who love us will only do so if we perform.

Over the years I have had to work on trusting love. I convinced myself that people would love me as long as I had a smile on my face and maintained positivity. I only wanted others to see me at my best. I was afraid to let people experience me when I needed help. By conditioning myself to think that I had to perform—appear to not need anything—I prevented authentic, close relationships. I presented a version of me, but not all of me. My erroneous belief caused me discomfort and gave others the impression that I didn’t trust them enough to be vulnerable. I had to learn that love was not directly proportional to how often I asked for help and that love was not performance-based. I needed to understand that I could not experience authentic love until I was authentic. It wasn’t easy, but I learned to trust in my friends’ love for me.

My nephew has needed me for many things over the years. I’ve carried him. I’ve dressed him. I’ve prepared his food. I’ve given him my undivided attention at times when I’d rather read. Still, he asks me for help because he trusts that I’ll give it, and more importantly, he trusts that my love for him will not change. If only we could all walk in the same level of trust with those who genuinely love us.

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