The older you get, the harder it is to say I love you. And if that’s not one of the most soul-crushing realities in life, I must not understand souls, realities, or life.
When you’re younger, it doesn’t matter who you love. You can say it to mommy and daddy all day long. You can say it to your new friend on the playground. You can even say it (after much prompting) to the aunt that always pinches your cheek when you see her at Christmas.
Get a little bit older, and suddenly it’s taboo. The girl who sits across from you at story time is cute, but you can’t tell her that, let alone say “I love you.” Your mom kisses you goodbye when she drops you off at soccer practice, but you don’t say “I love you” back because your friends are nearby.
You’re in middle school and he tells you he loves you. If you say it back, does that mean you go to the dance together?
You’re in high school and she tells you she loves you. If you say it back, does that mean you’re going to go to the same college?
You’re in college and he tells you he loves you. If you say it back, does that mean you’re getting married?
It’s a hard topic. What I really want to tell you, reader, is to say “I love you” whenever you feel it. That you can trust your heart, life’s too short, you’ll always wonder “what if,” and other similar cliches.
But that’s not reality. That’s Disney stuff, and as much crap as they go through, it’s all tied into a neat little bow and fades out with a kiss after 97 minutes.
Unless you’re a Disney princess (and I’m still holding out on that one), here’s my advice to you:
Guard your heart.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Ask God daily to work on your heart. You may have dated a couple jerks, cheaters, or liars, but you’re not Mister or Miss Perfect either.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
And when all else fails, (and many things, including you, will fail) remember who the keeper of your heart is.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)
In middle school I went with my good friend Jenna to a summer church camp. Let’s see if we can find an embarrassing image you can have in your mind as I tell this story.
Embarrassing, but it doesn’t really give you the extent of my awkward geekiness that summer.
As I was saying…
At this church camp, we weren’t allowed to have our cell phones out at any time. Ever the rebellious geek, I didn’t follow the rules. In my top bunk, once the lights were off, I’d turn the brightness on my phone all the way down and text this guy I knew for hours. (*Spoiler: We’re getting married in two months.)
When we would say good night, it was always “I love you.” Sometimes I said it back, sometimes I didn’t. We weren’t dating and we didn’t want to date. I felt weird saying those words that I was told were so important. Even at a young age I had heard so much conflicting advice…
Use “I love you” sparingly.
Go with your gut.
Guard your heart.
Don’t say I love you to anyone except family.
You don’t really know what love is when you’re young.
There are different kinds of love.
Love is simple.
Love is complex.
Yeah, you’re tellin’ me.
Finally, I told Kent (aforementioned texter/fiancé) that I was uncomfortable with saying I love you. He explained that it meant we were friends who really cared about each other, but I still wasn’t sure we should be using words like that. Deciding to err on the side of caution, I told him we probably shouldn’t say it anymore. (That rule has since been nullified).
The older you get, the harder it is to say I love you.
I knew that. I had seen that–not in close, personal relationships or from family–but from the world around me.
I wish I could I say I fought it. That I refused to become cynical, or bitter, or closed off. But I became a nice little combination of all those things, and I’m not proud of it.
I’m a recovering love-hater. I’m a recovering afraid-of-getting-hurt-er. I’m a recovering cynic–untrusting and sour. That’s okay, though. I know almost as little about love now than I did those summers at camp, but there’s one thing I am certain of:
Love is the only thing that makes change possible.
Whether it’s a heart, a life, or a mindset, people can change. They do change, and I have a sneaky feeling I know how it happens.
Be the person today who proves the statement “The older you get, the harder it is to say I love you,” wrong.