In our relationships, we must often walk in a vast gray area of unknowability.
Even within ourselves, there are many times when we cannot discern intuition from fear. Sometimes we simply must embrace uncertainty and allow the present experience to unfold.
It would be easier to navigate relationships with a clear, concise set of rules, and we try to.
The brain makes associations to protect us, red flags of caution rooted in our prior experiences, but if we react in self-defense to every warning sign, we find ourselves alone.
We each carry a few scary-looking scars from the fray. Sometimes we are mid-battle, actively bleeding from the latest trauma.
Sadly, we often step back to protect ourselves when we encounter another in pain, especially if it brushes against our own unhealed wounds, leaving our friends and loved ones isolated and robbing ourselves of the opportunity to heal with them.
Paradoxically, it is those who have been most wounded and who embrace their hard-fought journey through the thorns, who acknowledge their human struggle, who become our greatest teachers, allies and protectors.
These are rare guides in a modern culture that idolizes the underdog only after they have fought their way to the top.
We can often witness the beauty of enduring difficult relationships within our families, where we are much less likely to walk away, despite the red flags.
People evolve, sometimes so slowly and subtly that we begin to lose hope. Other times, a rapid transformation is so remarkable that it is hard to trust. And yet, this is the gift of relationship: beautiful surprises.
We tend to believe fully in our own ability to change. We must in order to forgive, release shame, and step right back into the risk of our imperfection.
When we stand back, we can see clearly our own journey and the great distance we have come from where we once stood, in our beliefs, in our priorities, in our very way of being inside of ourselves.
It is harder to look for the same evolution in those who might hurt us, easier to draw a black-and-white line and avoid the danger.
Boundaries are the art of wise opening, not of closing off.
Navigating the gray requires a conscious practice of awareness, compassion and adaptation.
As we learn how to recognize and take responsibility for our own wounds and healing, we also learn how to open ourselves intentionally to greater uncertainty while standing solidly in our worth. We can take the time to understand the whole person we are walking with. We can give the gift of holding nonjudgmental space for their evolution, and our own.
The inevitable hurt of opening our hearts is, in the long run, a garden of memories, growth and meaning, as compared to the aching echo chamber of avoidance behind a high wall of fear.