“To what end?” my friend Jim used to ask me—usually when I was considering something he thought pointless or even foolish. One incident I remember had to do with a guy I had known when I lived in Canada.
This was a guy I was thinking of marrying—until I found out he was seeing someone else. Ouch! He apologized and asked for forgiveness, and I forgave him. But I was back in the States by then, and I never got around to writing to tell him I forgave him.Several years later, I happened to see him, and I was genuinely friendly; I had forgiven him. He was so happy—and relieved—I felt a bit bad that I had not written to him. Afterward, he wrote to thank me for forgiving him. His letter included an update on his life (I already knew from mutual friends that the other relationship had not worked out), and he said it would be good to hear from me.
Hmm. Would I write back? “To what end?” Jim asked.
I understood his question. What was I going to gain by reconnecting with someone who had hurt me? Why would I take that chance? What did I hope would happen?
In the end, the impulse to respond passed, and I never wrote back. But I had saved his letter, which I discovered the other day when I was going through some boxes of old letters.
Twenty-five years have passed since he broke my heart, and I have no ill will toward him; I have moved on (ok, perhaps not completely since I have never risked the possibility of marriage again).While I was in Ireland recently, I visited with two women I also knew from when I lived in Canada. I had not seen either of them in many years and had reconnected with them through Facebook.
When one of them suggested a visit, I responded without hesitation, even though I could hear Jim’s voice in my head asking, “To what end?”
I had no answer except that I wanted to see them—no need to justify or have next steps planned out. I just wanted to reconnect.Protecting ourselves from possible hurt is important, and I know that Jim’s question usually came out of his concern for me. He saw the pain I had gone through when my heart was broken, and he cared enough about me to want to shield me from further hurt.
I was always more of a risk-taker than Jim, which was one of the things he loved about me. With risk comes more potential for hurt.
I have been keeping my heart safely locked up for a long time now, not making myself vulnerable or risking pain. To what end? I ask myself. Am I happier living in a cocoon?
When Jim had cancer and was pondering life with intentionality, he often said, “Think big thoughts.” Acting on those big thoughts involves risk; I am ready.