You love fewer people than you think you do. And, if you need permission to care less diligently about some, in order to love others better – this is it. Feel free to hit delete.
I mean, of course, you’re kind and warm, welcoming and enthusiastic about lots of people when you encounter them in the street or with mutual friends. You’re never not gracious and friendly; making small talk while circulating the room. You listen to stories and remember to think good thoughts for those who are suffering and say a prayer if you are so inclined.
So, yes – you do care about people, in a general way of speaking. You care, in a general, non-practitioner sense. You care with the capacity that you have. You pay attention to your Facebook news feed. But you do not really love that many specific people.
Read that sentence twice. Follow the emphasis.
You do not really love that many specific, individual people.
You do not really love that many specific, individual people.
And that’s ok. In fact, it’s probably good for you. Indeed, I’m giving you permission, I’m asking you to consider loving fewer people, better. Let Love take on a heavier, more intentional meaning than when you talk about ice-cream or potato chips.
Our world is saturated with connection that lacks intimacy. Week after week, people tell me how brave and vulnerable I must be to write how I do on this blog or in social media. I share my reflections on an inner life and strangers halfway around the world are moved. I am moved because they are. I feel a sense of purpose in creating meaning for others. But I am not the meaning.
You see, I care about the people who read and engage with my words. I care that they are well, moving towards wholeness, being themselves, discovering bravery in intimacy and courage to use their own voices. I care, but I do not love you.
That’s ok. You shouldn’t need me to love you and you probably don’t. But some of us – the only care we receive is what comes back through those social media filters.
I can only truly love maybe 20 people or so. There are another 30 or so I love very much. There are another 30 – 40 beyond that I would feel their absence keenly from my world and be rocked by their tragedies. But I am an anomaly and almost none of those people experience my love through social media.
Most people only have room for 6 – 8 significant intimate connections outside their immediate family. That’s how many people you can truly love, engage and maintain intimacy with. I have a small family, I figure I get some extra numbers. I’m an extrovert, a writer and speaker. Part of my job is to connect with people. It’s almost effortless to collect people along the way and genuinely care about those interactions and outcomes. In the moment, when you’re there. And conceptually, afterward – even for a long time.
Anyone who lives in the present moment will find themselves well-connected to all manner of people; because we are able to give and receive in the moment of ourselves and others.
That’s life-giving, fulfilling and beautiful. It is the nature of Love when we are swept up in its outpouring to engage with others. It may be intimate for a moment but it is not lifelong.
With the exception of marriage (I still believe), our relationships are permitted to be seasonal. Not every fleeting connection was meant to last forever, but nowadays we accumulate relationships the same way people collect baseball cards. There’s always room for one more and always a new player joining the team. How are we ever meant to figure out the rules of engagement for every connection we make? How are we ever to find the time or the energy for all these connections.
Don’t get me wrong. Caring for people is great. Whenever you are able, care for someone. Caring is good and creates emotional connection, but Love will demand action too. We need to pare back our tribes so we can really care. To go deep again, not wide.
Love turns up in the middle of the night to a three word text message. Love is often invisible on Facebook, as a friend of mine reminded me. Caring for someone can happen in a moment; Love that follows through every promise grows over time. It’s a different kind of investment. You will learn this in the cruelest way when you realise someone you thought loved you, only cared. Then you will know what it is; to need to know the difference in how you love and how you are loved.
Loving some people and caring for others is kinda healthy. The ability to make connections deeper than Sunday coffee conversations and the ability to prioritize where you invest. More than checking Facebook status updates.
The trouble with navigating relationships in a world dominated by constant connection with people through social media, text and email – is that sometimes the ones you truly love are not the ones that dominate your time or your filters. Sometimes people get waylaid in their expectations and they want more Love than Care.
They forget that a Facebook or Instagram like
is not as weighty as a text message
which is not as weighty as an email
which is not as weighty as a phone call
and is not as weighty as your physical presence
when it comes to Love
because Love will always come with action.
Caring is enough, if caring is what I have to offer. But caring cannot get in the way of Love.
Facebook is an audience. A collection of people whom we’ve connected with. But my people, the people I love find themselves around my fireplace. The people I love eat my food. Still, the pressure builds to stay on top of triumph and tragedy through words and pictures on a dozen different channels. We love knowledge and some (most) are naturally curious. We love to discover what’s hidden or unknown. But a hundred connections that love real love and intimacy will never equate to the truth and power of being really known by a friend you love. Who hopefully loves you back. Those are sacred spaces, so you can’t have them or share them with all those people. No one has enough spirit for that. Except maybe Oprah. And even then, not even Oprah. She knows.
The power of real intimacy with a real person in comparison to the influence and energy of an audience. Neither is better, but they have different purposes and meaning in our lives.
So maybe you need permission to let some people go. To hit delete from your Facebook friends list, or eliminate the noise from people you care about to focus on the people you love. Delete pointless contacts from your phone. If you’ll never call them, don’t keep their number. Filter out the needless information and curiosities that fill up your day/mind/thoughts and open your spirit again to deep Love. If you are really brave, filter your little black book of calendar engagements too.
Delete me, if you need to. I get it. I care about you too and I want you to do a better job of loving the ones you Love. I want the same thing. You’ve got permission to gather yourself back from the hundreds of little connections draining your battery and making obstacles for true love.