In the span of two days at work in the Emergency Department, I took care of two disturbing cases. In both, my patient (one male, one female) had gotten into an argument with their significant other. Both significant others took my patient’s vital medications in attempts to have my patient talk to them again. One patient had a seizure. The other patient suffered permanent kidney damage. Both patients were effectively rendered homeless as a result and were obviously distraught.
My heart broke, not only for my patients, but for their significant others. How desperate were they for love that they would rather settle for a love that was forced than no love at all. How desperate were they for love that they would manipulate, trick, connive their way to have someone at their side. How desperate were they for love that they wanted to possess the other.
St. Francis of Assissi once said that possession is the true opposite of love. Obviously, hate is an opposite of love too, but possession’s detrimental power is underrated. Possession is never compatible with true, authentic love.
Possession does not allow for the good of another person.
Sometimes, the most loving thing we can do in life is to let a person go so he or she may grow, live, and thrive away from us. Parents let their children go off to college. Co-workers congratulate their co-workers on new jobs even though they’ll be sorely missed. Friends encourage their friends to apply for jobs in a different city, even though they love having them close by.
But parents also guilt their children into going to school nearby. Co-workers can bash other companies to convince their favorite co-workers to stay. Friends sometimes exaggerate the difficulties of moving to persuade their friends to stay.
In which scenarios can we say those parents, co-workers, and friends did those things out of love? The scenarios where they let them go. In the latter scenarios, possession clearly is holding another person back.
Possession hides our shame.
The significant others wanted to possess their loved ones. They wanted affection from my patients like a child wants to hold onto a favorite toy or blanket. Really, that kind attachment is immature and childish. The only “adult” thing about a majority of relationships based on possession are how the couple interacts sexually.
Truth is, we’re human. We all have cracks. We all have insecurities. We all are imperfect, so our relationships are going to be imperfect. I’ll fully admit, in romantic relationships, I have wanted to possess the other person. That unadulterated desire to possess my romantic partners mostly came from personal insecurity. I wanted my relationship to be perceived as perfect since I wanted to be perceived as perfect when really, I was hiding deep, deep insecurities and flaws.
Possession makes us want more when we have enough.
Possession never leaves us satisfied. We think we want this much attention, this much affection, this much pleasure, this much special treatment until we get it…and then we want more again. Possession is restless, always wanting more whereas love is perfectly satisfied and at peace with what it has.
When it comes to love, reality is always better than our imagination. Sure, we watch movies and picture what our love life could be with a little of that. Sure, we listen to songs and picture what our love life could be with a little of that. Sure, we compare ourselves to others and imagine what our love life could be with a little of that.
But reality is always better than our imagination because reality is what is actually happening.
A bowl of chicken noodle soup in front of you is better than an imaginary steak dinner. A single wildflower given to you is better than an imaginary bouquet of dozens of red roses. A single kiss on the cheek is better than an imaginary paissionate one on the lips. Reality is always better than our imagination because reality is what is actually happening.
And what greater love can you imagine than the real, authentic love of Christ? If you were the only person in the world, Jesus Christ would have died a horrific, painful death, for just the opportunity for you to freely love Him. No tricks. No gimmicks. No manipulation. Just freely giving up everything for a chance to love you.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is love.
Whether in heaven or on earth, loving relationships remain have the same core: They are freely given and will your good.
As much as I wanted to judge the significant others’ of my patients, I could not. I’ve been there. I’ve wanted love so badly that I was willing to settle for an inauthentic love. I was willing to manipulate, trick, and gimmick my way into it instead of courageously willing to risk letting another person leave me.
As much as I wanted to judge my patients, I could not. I’ve been there. I’ve wanted love so badly that I was willing to settle for an inauthentic love. I was willing to be manipulated, tricked, and gimmicked in my relationships instead of courageously willing to be alone.
Reflecting on possessive relationships and the damage they cause, I got to thinking about my own: Am I being selfish with my loved ones? Are my loved ones being selfish with me? Am I being used to fill a void? Am I using others to fill a void? Am I fantasizing about a more pleasing scenario than appreciating my current reality?
I challenge you to reflect on your relationships: Are you being selfish with your loved ones? Are they being selfish with you? Are you being used to fill a void? Are you using others to fill a void? Are you fantasizing about a more pleasing scenario than appreciating your current reality?
Yes or no, you’re a good person who is worthy of love. We all want to be loved, and wanting love is a natural, beautiful, holy desire. It’s the piece of our heart that can only be filled by God, however. No human person, no pet, no comfort, no security, no thing can fill that void.
I know I had to answer “yes,” and it sucks. That means I have some work to do, some relationships to truly let go, and some more reflection to do. But that “yes,” that acknowledgement, that knowledge will allow the Lord to work within me.
If you answered “yes” anywhere, remember that whatever it is, whoever it is, no matter much you want it, that is not authentic love. You deserve an authentic love and so does everyone else in your life. For your sake and theirs, evaluate the relationship. Out of love – true, authentic, self-sacrificing, courageous love – you may just need to let them go, taking nothing (including their life-sustaining medications) as leverage for them to return to you.