How do we form our conception of love? Is it innate, learned, or a combination of the two? I would have to say the basic idea of love is innate in all of us, but how we express it depends on our instruction and experiences. Love is much more complex than its romanticized versions depicted in popular movies and throughout pop culture.
Quite frankly, love is not always loving. And I experienced this truth in its highest magnitude throughout the first fourteen years of my life. Over that tumultuous span, love was an incessant tempest of violence, rage, and lingering pain.
Domestic violence is rampant in the United States. One in four women and one in seven men will be violently assaulted by an intimate partner in his or her lifetime. Men who witness domestic violence as children are three to four times more likely to harm their partners in the future. A woman is battered every nine seconds in the United States.
Roughly 10 million children are exposed to violence in their homes each year. I was one of them.
I am still haunted by the terrors and instability of my childhood. To this day, I am unable to maintain a long-term relationship. I suffer from low self-esteem and insecurity. Waves of depression crash into my head from time to time. There are some days when I must will myself out of bed, go to my drawer, retrieve my "smile," and temporarily adhere it to my face to veil my darkest feelings. And sometimes I am convinced that my heart is defective and will never be able to provide the love others expect.
Pain is generational. It does not just persist throughout one person's lifetime, but it can be inherited by the next generation. I grew up around two individuals in a constant footrace with their pain. The best way to describe one's relationship with pain is by recounting the childhood tale of the tortoise and the hare. You can sprint like the hare and distance yourself from pain temporarily, but the tortoise, representing pain, will always eventually catch up to you. Sooner or later, all the sprinting and dashing exhausts you to a point where you can longer run anymore.
A race with pain is one you will never win.
And both my parents valiantly vied to win this race, but only pain ever crossed the finish line.
I know I may never be able to completely quell my pain, but that doesn't mean I have to run away from it. I am beginning to realize that there is an abundance of beauty in brokenness. I am aware that this may sound counter-intuitive, but it's completely true. It's during our moments of greatest agony and adversity when we truly learn compassion, understanding, and ultimately how to love. Pain only dictates our lives when we fear it. I may have pain, but I am no longer fazed by it. I embrace my brokenness.
My heart is not defective, just different. I love differently, but not in a lesser way or amount. There is no shame in being broken.
Because being broken means you have felt. You have cared. And you have undoubtedly and courageously loved.
Watch my video above. For every 10 views this video receives during the rest of January, $0.25 will be donated to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Please share this with whomever you can and/or donate yourself.