I know that Lewis was probably referring to God loving us too much but I think this works for us as well. I am always too embarrassed, and sometimes even scared, to love people the way I know I should because I don’t want them to think that I love them too much.
The women in my family have taught me how to show love through affection, hospitality, and generosity. There is not a woman who so openly shows her extravagant love as La Lupe. Everyone that crosses her path is well-fed, hugged, kissed, maybe scolded a bit, but definitely knows her love. She is a great role model in this regard.
For some reason, while I know what I need to do to show people love, I really struggle with actually doing it. When I attend weddings, I get so nervous about talking to the newlyweds that I actually avoid them. I tell myself that they have more important people that they want to talk to than me so I avoid them to not take up time. (I know, pretty self-deprecating. Welcome to my head.) It’s such a load of crap. What I’m really scared of is showing the couple that I love them. I am scared that they will reject this love. That they will think I expressed too much love and not consider me as good a friend as I might consider them.
I know what scares me is the vulnerability of loving another. Of giving them hugs, of congratulating them, of complimenting them. To express such a real emotion makes me open to rejection and I sometimes cannot handle the possibility of this so I don’t let myself be vulnerable to begin with.
But the more big life experiences I live, the more I realize how silly I am being. At our wedding, every single person we invited was important to us. There was no one that was invited that we hoped would avoid us and not talk to us. We wanted to feel love from our community of friends and family.
Especially when it comes to big steps in life — marriage, babies, ordinations, graduations, etc. — we should show people our unabashed love.
A few minutes after I gave birth to Olivia, Brandon took a picture of her and texted it to his best friend. Fifteen minutes later, this friend was knocking at the door of our room. We weren’t even in our post-partum room yet and he was already there to congratulate us and see Olivia. This is the best example of fearless love I have ever come across. He didn’t let any thoughts of, “Oh, they’re busy. They probably want time to themselves. I need to give them their space,” keep him from bounding into our room because of the sheer happiness and joy he felt for his best friend. I will never forget how loved Brandon and I felt and how important we felt. There was no question that this friend’s actions made us feel supported and valued.
I sometimes think about different times in my life when I haven’t loved a person the way I knew I should and I cringe with guilt. Why did I let my pride and my fear get in the way? Maybe that person really needed it. There are two moments that I distinctly think about often. One was when I was at Adoration and the girl next to me was sobbing. In my head I wanted to put my arm around her or at least offer her a tissue. But fear of her response paralyzed me. What if she doesn’t want this and pulls away from me? What if she gets angry at me for noticing her crying? The other time was when one of my friends lost a parent. I had no idea what to say or how to approach the subject. So I ignored it. I didn’t talk to that person for a couple months. By the time I had worked up the courage to ask about it, it was so much in the past that I couldn’t do it because I had avoided it too long. To this day we never mention it.
What was I thinking? We are called to comfort the afflicted. I ignored them out of my own discomfort. I ignored them because I hate being vulnerable.
This is what I have learned: When people get married, give them big hugs and kisses and gush about what a wonderful couple they are. When someone has a baby, go see the family in hospital. Parenthood is really wonderful but pee-your-pants scary so the best thing you can do for them is show them love and support. And any other situation, if your gut is telling you to show the person more love than you are comfortable with, well, follow your gut. We shouldn’t be selfish. The moment is about the other person and what they need, not about our comfort level.
I’d much rather be embarrassed for loving a person too much than feeling guilty and kick myself for loving them too little. At those pearly gates, I’m pretty sure that St. Peter won’t keep us out because we gave too many hugs. But the opposite, maybe.