The Agony of Compassion
“Life, even amid the absurdity of human suffering, still has meaning. Suffering, as absurd as it seems, points to a greater story in which, if one will only construe himself as a character within, he can find fulfillment in his tragic role, knowing the plot is heading toward redemption. Such an understanding will take immense humility and immeasurable faith, a perspective perhaps achieved only in the context of near hopelessness” – Don Miller
If she meant the words she said I wouldn’t have to question and doubt all of them. When someone you love with the fabric of your soul vanishes out of your life completely and leaves you alone in a cold parking lot in Albany never to see you again, it’s damaging and permanent.
That’s not something you get over in a couple of months or years, it’s something that stays with you forever, buried into the brokenness of your existence. You wonder what makes you so unlovable that the same story repeats itself with every person you ever get close to.
Something that has haunted and messed me up is the continued instance of people closing the door and walking out of my life, erasing me and finding me unworthy of continuing any kind of relationship. It’s something I don’t understand, would never have the heart to do to anyone else, and it’s eroded my self-confidence over several years.
I wonder if she ever looks around her room at all the books I gave her and the things I made for her. I wonder if those things are even still there in her room or if she just packed them away, out of sight, out of mind, or just threw it all in the trash. A part of my heart says, “You know her, she would never do that.” And the other part says, “You never knew her, who knows what she thinks, thought, or is capable of.” And in the end, the later wins the thought battle because it’s true.
Terrifyingly, her emotions could be turned off and on like a light-switch. How someone can be so kind and loving one moment and then cold as ice the next left me in perpetual uncertainty, never knowing if today she would love me or find a lame excuse to tell me it’s over.
But I had to break up with me, over the phone of all things, because she couldn’t do it herself. I wasn’t worth being seen again after the cold-hearted Albany departure where I felt pushed from her vehicle, never to be seen again, and not knowing until a month later.
I was convinced that if I didn’t give up my most treasured part of me that I was sometimes embarrassed to still have, she would leave me. But she left anyway, and placed little value on what I valued most, even knowing found her worth all of the years of waiting and hoping.
She didn’t love me because you don’t torment, abandon, and destroy the people you love. You don’t walk out of someone’s life, no longer caring, wondering about or participating in their life. You don’t severe a connection with someone who loves you infinitely and keep open connections with those who don’t. For the sake of other caring, vulnerable and loving people potentially on her journey, I hope there are few hearts left standing in the path of that kind of destruction. She’s given me a searing scar I will write about forever.
I justified and ignored the times she belittled me and never asked about my life. I tried to forget the fact that somewhere her family got the idea that I wasn’t worth dating and would never be successful in the way they defined success. When I needed her most, she made it hard for me to open up, and then when I needed her more than ever, she disappeared for good.
The reason I’ve never had the experience of breaking another person’s heart is because I have always been completely sure of myself and who I am, and so certain of my decisions before I make them. If I wasn’t completely sure, I would never start the relationship in the first place. I don’t date and “see how it goes” anymore, not at this age, not as an adult. It took me months to ask her into a relationship. How foolish of me to be so considerate, wanting to make sure I was protecting her heart when it was mine that would need the protecting. It would be left exposed, discarded in an Albany parking lot.
So who or what’s to blame for being shackled to this agony? Who or what should take the stand and receive the penalty for this pain? At last the verdict has been revealed. My overwhelming compassion has been found guilty.
Not only did I love her with a love that was more than love, I smothered her with a tidal wave of compassion. I saw a struggling person, and I loved her for who she was. I loved her for her weaknesses and flaws and anxieties, her quirks and her mind, her matchless face and perfect features, her uncertainty and fear and what I perceived as a caring, kindhearted nature. My overwhelming and overpowering compassion subdued and blinded me, leaving me defenseless in its grandiose wake.
When I finally realized my compassion was to blame for delivering the final and fatal blow to my already mangled heart, my immediate reaction was to get rid of it, cast it away, crucify it. And that’s when I suddenly remembered what the agony of compassion cost, and how stupidly selfish I was for wanting to do away with it. The torment of rejection and being turned away from left such a gaping chasm, but God paid the ultimate price to fill that very void on my behalf.
In that moment I was reminded that joy costs pain, and it wasn’t necessary to win for the story to be great, it was only necessary to sacrifice everything. The agony of compassion was worth the fatal price for the merit of a dazzling restoration.