We have a duty to protect our hearts from unnecessary pain and suffering. But every relationship comes with degrees of heartache. As such, a certain vulnerability is required. We must not be naïve – assuming we can insulate ourselves enough to escape normal relational pains – while still remaining open and vulnerable at the same time.
Of course, it’s natural to pull back to protect our hearts after we’ve been hurt. But our temptation is then to grow hardhearted so that no one can hurt us again. And this places us in a dilemma because we find ourselves increasingly lonely the more we try to prevent the possibility of being hurt again.
To be sure, the answer is not then to throw caution in the wind – opening ourselves to all relationships, or otherwise naively pretending that if we just find the right person then we can avoid all future heartache.
Our automatic propensity to protect our hearts is a good thing. It reminds us that our hearts matter and that there’s danger whenever we engage relationally. It does no good to deny this reality. But we must not overextend this desire to protect ourselves so that we become isolated from others. We must still engage, and this will require vulnerability. We cannot avoid the natural suffering that comes with being in any relationship.
Whether marriage, friendship, parenting, or even the relationship we have with our pets, we must go in with our eyes wide open – not naively believing we can enter and remain untouched. But this reality shouldn’t cause us to shut our hearts down in fear and avoidance. We enter with a courageous vulnerability because the goodness of these relationships is worth every cost along the way.
In the end, relationships by their very nature keep us vulnerable to heartache and pain. Don’t be naive to this reality, but keep your heart open all the same.