Dealing With People You Love

Image credit: Everton Vila / Unsplash

There is so much pain right now going on around me that I’ve decided I need to talk about happy feelings.

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.” — Dalai Lama XIV

Some days ago I read the previous quote. I loved it. Read it again and again. I saw myself going back to it during the last 48 hours.

The truth is that there is something so deep about it that it’s magnetic. We rarely take the time to explore such quotes. They look beautiful in our news feeds; they make for great memes. We nod our heads or smile when we read them, but rarely we stop to understand them.

My experience is that such quotes hide troves of wisdom. They’re like little Kōans (gōng’àn) that enclose years of experience and meditation. The more you read them, the more you see. Maybe you revisit them years later, and a sudden spark of clear understanding arises.

So I decided to take a deeper look into the previous quote. It resonates powerfully with my ethos, and more importantly, I recently experienced it.

“Give the ones you love wings to fly.”

That one is pretty obvious on the surface, but it’s probably one of the hardest things to do. Humans have this tendency to hoard those things we love.

We treasure material possessions, and we also treasure people. We want them close to us; we want to see them, to touch them, to be all over them.

Paradoxically, that overprotection of our loved ones deprives them of the one thing we love about them, their freedom. We love them because of who they are. They are who they are because they have room to grow. If we prevent them from growing, we’ll kill their soul and will lose that that we actually love.

Instead, we need to empower our loved ones. We need to push them to fly away. We have to teach them how to grow wings and how to use them knowing that at one point they will eventually fly away. It’s hard, very hard to help someone, understanding they will leave you. Growing to love that person, but knowing they’ll be gone soon.

Letting go is so hard to do. It’s already tough when you’re the only one involve. But letting go of someone you love is like tearing your soul. It hurts deeply. It creates a void in your heart that’s hard to fill.

“[…] roots to come back […]”

But it’s also true that sometimes people we love can and will get stranded. They’ll get lost. They’ll feel alone and afraid.

Many times, letting go hurts so much that we depart from our loved ones in anger and confusion. This anger sometimes is so toxic that it makes us cut down the lifeline to our loved ones.

That’s a mistake. We need to support them. To be there for them when they need us. And they will need us. Maybe not when we want them to need us, but they’ll come back eventually. Everyone needs a place to reconnect, to feel safe. It’s important to provide those roots, that connection with something real and stable.

“[…] and reasons to stay.”

Finally, we have to build reasons for our loved ones to stay after their exploration period. We can’t fly forever. Humans need stability for us to survive and thrive. So we need to make sure we build compelling reasons for our loved ones to stay.

In the end, this is about a long-term race with ourselves. Being selfish and short-sighted isn’t the way to treat someone you love. Trust, safety and more importantly, love, are feelings that take time. They require a mutual investment, one that doesn’t necessarily needs to be simultaneous, at least at the beginning. Dealing with that fundamental asymmetry is the hardest thing about loving someone.

Don’t let your anger and your selfishness take the best of you. For once, think about what your loved one needs and not what you need and let go of them. Let them fly and wait for them with good reasons for them to stay.