Reconnaissance Articles

And the Pursuit of Happiness (strike that), Love

Ariel Anderton, Reconnaissance

Have you noticed how often the plot line of a movie will find its climax in an apology or a confession turning the story toward resolution? The character almost always apologizes with some desire for the offended person’s happiness: “all I strived for was your happiness,” “I thought it was what you wanted,” or “I tried to keep you happy that way”? These words often function as the key for solving the conflict.

I often hear these same lines in my counseling office as people talk about their spouse, their child, or loved one. If I do not hear it said out loud, I feel the current underlying virtually every issue that my clients are facing. This underlying foundation is not love, yet it is the basis for our interactions, and its allure seems everywhere.

There is a protest in us that says love and happiness should be the same and that loving someone means doing what we can for their happiness, and we hope for the same in return. From this foundation, we see any action that brings up or contributes to someone else feeling sadness, anger or guilt as un-loving.

Why do we scramble in the direction of happiness or rather high tail it away from these other emotions? There is tension, embarrassment or shame when we face the faults of others, the imperfections of ourselves, and the ‘unfairness’ of our world. Why should we spend any time seeking that unpleasant place between ourselves and others in our lives? We are willing to go to this place, because that is where Love lives.

Love lives in reality and truth, in the truth about the world, others, and ourselves. When we deny, avoid or leave out the ‘yuck’ in our relationships we create a distance, which keeps us safe from hurt and safe from love. This distance keeps places within us alone and unknown, thus our relationships stagnate. God could have made us to live in these solitary “safe” places, but He chose to make us with deep needs for relationship with Himself and others. When all was perfect between God and Adam, God said that Adam was alone and it was not good (Gen 2:18). How much more is it not good for us to be alone in our lives now?

Maybe you’re saying now “Okay. I can see how pursuing love may be better than trying to keep others happy, but how do I do that? I’ve never known anybody that does that. I couldn’t face the reaction from the people I know if I went there.” If you’re saying any version of the above, then you are in good company. Pursuing love is not the norm, and I do not suggest you go out and start trying this with everyone you know. It is vulnerable and risky. While it will not ever be risk-free, be intentional who you do this with. The reward of love is worth the risk.

If you have not seen or experienced going into these parts of a relationship with someone before, then the first step is to find someone who does and experience it from them. Keep your ears open and eyes peeled. Pray for this someone to come across your circle. It may be a neighbor, church member, counselor, friend of a friend, etc. This relationship will need to build over a period of time. There must be trust. Then, pursue these places in your relationship with this person. It can even be something you openly talk about trying to do together. This does not have to be an epic, secret-telling of your past. Let it be natural as life dishes it bit by bit within the relationship.

This is part of what Jesus was talking about when He said that God wants to bring us back to life and life abundantly (John 10:10). Love is being known. The real fallen me knowing the real fallen you.

Parents, this also applies in your relationship with your children. What a gift for them to learn from a young age that making them happy is not the default of your relationship with them. How amazing for them to know that your love, knowing all of them, is the basis - not whether they are happy or not. Likewise, you are not expecting them to make you happy, but instead are experiencing their love, being known by them, in reality and truth.