Love More, Care Less
Our job as parents, as humans, is to be loving and supportive, but our job is not to shoulder someone else’s pain.“Love more, care less,” my dear friend said. I was in the midst of recounting a story about one of my kids being mistreated by a group of kids. As I retold the story, I felt like I was thrusting jagged daggers into my own heart.
But it wasn’t MY story. They weren’t even my daggers.
At first, I thought, “What the heck does it mean to love more, care less?” My brain couldn’t wrap itself around this subtle and shifty idea. After all, I’m a mom; how can I ethically justify caring less?
Nonetheless, this “love more, care less” shenanigan kept echoing in my head. As it percolated around in my heart and brain, I began to see its relevance and maybe even brilliance. Our job as parents, as humans, is to be loving and supportive, but our job is not to shoulder someone else’s pain. We can be fully present and available without living smack dab in someone else’s reality.
In other words, we can hold our child’s hand and listen deeply, without taking on that experience as our own. We can be the soft place to fall for our spouse or friend, without falling with them.
As an immigration attorney for a non-profit, I hear a lot of grueling, life-altering stories. Agonizing stories of immigrants and their harrowing journeys across the border; stories of rape, murder, and trafficking; stories of perseverance, poverty, and courage. I have hundreds of these stories in my back pocket, and I’m blessed to be able to help create some happy endings for these good people.
But likewise, these stories are not my own, and if I were to take them on as mine, I would be eviscerated and devastated on a daily basis. Even worse, if I were to sit idly with them in the middle of that devastation, I would be useless to my clients. I would not be able to think clearly, evaluate their legal options, and help them on their path of healing.
So instead, I try to love more and care less. Of course, it’s loads easier to follow this advice in a work setting. Bring in kids, spouses, close friends, and family, and we all have that tendency to dive into their stories and experiences as if they were our own. Oftentimes, parents have a harder time dealing with their children’s difficult experiences than the actual kid does.
However, we’re not serving ourselves or our loved ones if we dip into their angst with them. In fact, I would argue we are more valuable to them if we can back up and be more neutral. From there, on the sidelines of the emotional slop, we can give our lovies the big picture. We can reassure, advise, love, and be a voice of reason and compassion.
Spoiler alert: this is not easy! “Love more, care less” requires a conscious effort to pump the brakes when we feel ourselves circling the emotional drain of someone else’s pain. We may have to physically and mentally pry ourselves out of this role. (This may take a crow bar for some of us).
Suffering serves a purpose. Think of all the experiences that you have had that have made you the badass that you are. Likewise, our loved ones have to walk their own paths, encounter challenges, and discover their own meaning. We’re here to lift them up, give some hearty hugs, and keep them on the golden path. Grab your crow bars, and love more, care less!