Close The Gate To The City

In my life, I have had many occasions to watch love in action, and to see shifting behaviors in response to shifting feelings and attitudes and circumstances. To be sure, few of my reflections on love have been necessarily pleasant for myself [1], and to be sure, what we mean by love is not necessarily merely romantic love (but also the kinds of love that unite people in institutions, families, nations, and friendships). Whatever the nature of the love and relationship that we are speaking of, there are common elements and patterns that we can see and that we can learn from and apply to our lives. Knowing how to do this can be a difficult task, but few tasks that are worthwhile are always pleasant, even if the end we desire is a good one.

One of the more melancholy reflections I have come across in the course of my life is to see the signs that someone’s love and regard are in a state of precipitous decline. We cannot read the hearts of other people, and though it might be a comfort to see their love and kindness towards us, it would also be a source of great pain to know that one’s private thoughts and reflections could be seen and read by others like a book, and a source of great sorrow and anguish of heart to know the doubts and misapprehensions that others suffered from concerning us. If some ignorance of the unsteadiness and chaos of the hearts of ourselves and others is not necessarily blissful, even partial knowledge of such matters can be excruciatingly painful and unpleasant.

Since we cannot read the hearts of others, we must infer their feelings from their actions. Love is the gate into the fortress of our hearts [2], and if we have closed off our hearts to others, then nothing that they do can change our feelings for them. It is not the kindness or love of others that leads us to feel or think better of them, for we can always explain away their actions to an attempt to bribe our kindness through acts of devotion to vainly repay for past hurts and misdeeds, or as attempts to cloak their evil and malign intents towards us through an apparent facade of kindness and love. No, our hearts must be won by our own acts of kindness towards others. If we wish to feel fondly about others, we must act kindly towards them. So long as we can demonstrate love and concern through our actions, our hearts will be motivated in some fashion to think and feel well towards them. When we no longer act kindly towards them, our hearts are closed to them, not because they have done anything so horrible, but because we have closed our hearts to them.

Again, the motivations of that closure are not necessarily relevant or important. We can be motivated by fear, by a desire not to be led into an unsuitable attachment, by our own hurts and suspicions from past experiences, or other similar factors. Whatever the motivation, though, the cooling and closing of our hearts can be inferred by others through our actions, even if it cannot be seen. It is a horribly difficult and unpleasant matter to be loving and kind and tenderhearted with people who are being cruel and hostile and vicious, but if we wish to remain open-hearted towards others, even in adverse circumstances, sometimes it is necessary for our hearts to be refined through suffering because of the complex and harrowing interaction of our own character and personality and experiences with that of others. Such suffering appears to be nearly inevitable in the dark seasons of our existence.

Yet such suffering, often caused because of our own vulnerabilities, is often also the way out of those difficulties. After all, those who are observant and at least open to being sympathetic will see our struggle to do what is right and proper despite the fact that we are clearly in great distress. The same sort of kindness that can cause offense can, at length, deliver us from unpleasant situations by showing that we are willing to act with kindness and consideration even towards those who have been hostile and vicious against us. And even if it is not a pleasant matter to experience such things, sometimes building trust with others, and opening closed hearts, requires a lengthy period of time where we act with love and kindness even if we feel no such things. If we are persistent, we may eventually encourage others to open their hearts by our example. This is true whether we are in troubled friendships, families, relationships, institutions, or societies. Woe to us if we cannot see the love and kindness that is shown to us by others, though.

[1] See, for example, the following recent reflections:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Close The Gate To The City

  1. I hope for the time that I will be able to open my heart to others to the extent that I will be able to discern that their honest assessments are given as precisely that and not the stinging arrows that I initially feel.

  2. So very true. Sometimes a person’s silence cannot help but be read as uncaring or indifference to another’s pain or suffering when it is, in reality, a symptom of something else entirely. The wholeness of interacting souls is such a fragile art. Much suffering ensues from differing personality traits. It is very difficult to remember the other person’s point of reference when one is in a place of suffering and the need for a shoulder or ear is overwhelming. We tend to believe in the unspoken language of interpersonal needs–that everyone close to us are automatically aware of our feeling and needs–and we feel a sense of betrayal when the truth fails to meet our expectations.

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