To Love Unconditionally Requires This

to love boundaries

To love must include truth, wisdom, and boundaries. Sometimes it means distance. It means knowing when to rest and recharge and to embrace our limits. It always means to have grace for yourself, too.

For those who have been abused or traumatized: Forgiveness does not mean friendship. No one must ever be rushed into forgiveness. Not for trying to look like the “bigger person” or “because it’s the right thing to do.” We need to recognize patterns of unrepentant abuse and gaslighting and manipulative language that will only guilt-trip back into a vicious cycle. We can never mindlessly open the door again on an abusive relationship. You have the right to say “no.”

To love is not enabling, pampering, coddling, or letting someone off the hook—or it wouldn’t really be love at all. There’s a way to help others that really hurts them because it only feeds into their harmful patterns. Walking away from someone is sometimes the most gracious thing you could do for them.

The idea that “loving people enough will change them” is not a bad idea—but it’s only half an idea, informed by romanticized, reckless cliches of Hollywood montages and high-fives that never reveal the ugliness of real love. Yes, it looks appealing to “redeem the villain” and I do believe that even the most evil person can be redeemed.

But unless the abuser admits it’s abuse, you’re only reinforcing their position. To make yourself a martyr, to say this is “sacrifice,” is so often just an illusory daydream of being a hero, a rescuer, a savior, built on a guilt trip that you have to “love no matter what or else you’re bad.” I’m telling you: love must make people free, and that includes you too.

I do believe God can redeem the abuser and oppressor. But God is foremost for the victim, the abused, the oppressed, the despondent, the neglected and rejected. God is for you.

— J.S.

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