The problem with caring is that eventually you get hurt. Pain and passion are, for all intents and purposes, synonymous. When you give your heart away, it will get handed back to you in pieces. It is as inevitable as the tug of the moon on the tides.
Life is not to be found in avoiding hurt, though. That is where too many people get it wrong. Sorrow is unavoidable. In this life, you will suffer. Where we truly start to find meaning is when we love anyway, when we care anyway, when we allow ourselves to feel anyway. The experiences in life that offer the most fulfilment demand a sacrifice of tears.
So why should we dare to expose our hearts to the bitter stings of betrayal, of disappointment, of shame? We do it because after there are no more tears to cry, when we can temporarily forget the smarting of the wounds, we find that we are richer, our joy fuller, our lives more significant for having undertaken the journey. We find that we know ourselves a little better, we discover a little more grace. We become a little more humble. And we can always find in the fleeting beauty for which we risked the heartbreak something to eclipse any of the anguish the discovery cost us.
I believe that. That is why one of my core values is passion. Somehow I will always endeavour to find the strength to care, and to care deeply. I do it in the full knowledge that I will end up broken. But if a thing is worth risking your heart for (and I urge the exercise of wisdom here), the rewards will more than compensate for the inevitable pain. Some sacrifices are worth making.
Fatherhood is a perfect example. Apart from the sacrifice of sleep, sanity, a more peaceful relationship with Megan (my wife) and financial comfort, there is the certainty that Nathan will not always appreciate how much I love him and how much I have given up and will give up for him. But all these trials are insignificant when compared to the joy of being with Nathan and the privilege of watching him grow and being a part of his life.
I am not advocating a reckless abandonment of wisdom, nor am I suggesting that one should neglect the insights into life gleaned from past hurts. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 4 verse 23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”. Solomon speaks to the vital necessity of being circumspect about to whom and to what cause you make yourself vulnerable. Staying in a situation that breaks you is not living. But being chained to those memories is not living either. One must guard the spring that sustains life. However, occasionally one is required to drink from that spring. It is drinking from the water that sustains life, not sitting by, making sure that the well is safe.
May I – and, indeed, you, dear reader – always have the courage to live passionately. And I see passion as an action, not a feeling; act like you care, even if you don’t feel it. If it is worth caring about, the feeling will follow. May you drink deep from the waters. And when the drinking exacts its toll from you, as invariably it must, may you have been wise enough in your choosing of where and how you drink, that the rewards render the cost worthwhile. You will find that living passionately will change you, and as you change, so the world will become, if only in an infinitesimal way, a better place. Lionel Richie (I give away my age here) put it beautifully: “I think the whole world is dying to hear someone say, ‘I love you.’ I think that if I can leave the legacy of love and passion in the world, then I think I’ve done my job in a world that’s getting colder and colder by the day.”