A few years ago I wrote a blog post called, Why Do We Love Those Who Don’t Love Us Back? It is consistently my most-read post, and the most common search term that brings people to my blog is a variation of that question:
Why do I love someone who doesn’t love me back?
People Google that. A lot of people Google that.
Unrequited love is a mystery we are asking a search engine to solve for us. Loving someone who doesn’t seem to return our feelings is painful, and when God doesn’t make the pain go away when we ask Him to, we ask Google.
I dated a guy in college I was over the moon for.
I loved him, no question. But then he broke up with me. And a year after we broke up, I still felt like I loved him. I needed to move on. Friends agreed, it was time. But I didn’t know how. I couldn’t decipher the steps to take to stop loving him.
One night in a Phoenix hotel room while I was traveling with my family on Christmas break, I confessed this to my parents. I confessed as I cried and then I apologized for how stupid it was that I was crying, and then I cried about the stupidity of crying, and then I just kept crying.
Until my dad provided the most simple of responses that would be the catalyst for my recovery. He said,
“You can’t help who you love.”
I realize now that maybe those words were so helpful because my dad was using the plural “you.” He wasn’t saying, “You, Andrea, are unique and can’t stop loving the person who broke your heart.” He was saying none of us can stop loving the people we don’t have any business loving.
The power of this—realizing your problem is shared by many others—can not be underestimated.
A few years ago when I first explored this question, I drew parallels to the Gospel.
I decided we felt unrequited love because that mirrored the cross so well, and that’s where our solace is in the midst of this. I still believe that, but now that I’ve seen how many people need an answer to this question and how much peace I felt in that Phoenix hotel room when I realized I wasn’t alone, I think the comfort can be found just as much in the communal element as it can in the Gospel.
In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis explains that opening our eyes to this community is what opens our eyes to God:
For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body. Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together.
Look around you.
How many are suffering from loving an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend?
Or a family member who has said so many hurtful things and missed so many birthdays that they no longer deserve love? Or a child who ran away and never looked back?
Or a parent who never said “I love you” to her child? All of them are loved by someone, and that someone is uncertain as to why they still love them, the one they have no business loving.
And maybe they are asking Google why, but they can be certain they are not alone and in that certainty they will see God.