THE BLOG
10/03/2013 05:46 pm ET Updated Dec 03, 2013

Don't Apologize for Loving Someone -- Not Ever

On our blog, we've received a lot of private messages from broken people. Hurting. This entry is dedicated to them.

We can love, love, love but sometimes that love isn't returned. That's not our fault. To love or not to love is a choice. We chose to love. They chose not to. This does not mean we are unlovable or unworthy of love. We're not idiots, fools, or weak for loving. Rather, we have courage. Because we chose to be vulnerable and self-sacrificing; a requirement for love. And when it was over, though the echoes of the painful experiences reverberate in the depths of our being, we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and we keep pressing onward.

I've made it a rule in my personal life to never apologize for loving people, even if that love is never returned. To be unloving is the other person's problem, not mine. As my grandmother use to tell me, "At the end of your life, the only things you'll regret are 1) Not taking more risks and 2) Not being more loving toward others." She died at 94 years and those were some of her final thoughts. Powerful.

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The following fictional letter is from an 80-year-old grandfather to his son, Clayton "Finn" Fincannon. After a relationship ends between he and his first love "Eden" during his senior year of college in California, Finn visits home in Tennessee. At night, beside a fire, Finn recounts the story to his grandfather. The next morning, Finn prepares to return to California to finish his last semester of college. The letter awaits him by the door. Whatever feelings arise when you hear the word, "God," understand the cultural upbringing of the characters.

This comes from my novel, The Mason Jar.

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Dear Finn,

I know right now, all that is visible is seen through the lenses of loss and pain. So, I'm not sure the words I say to you will resonate. But know that feelings just are. Experience them. Don't deny them or push them away. If you do, it will come out through other avenues like short-tempers and sharp answers to friends and loved ones who don't deserve to be mistreated.

We do not deny our experiences, good or bad. We must embrace them. They are a part of who we are. The point is to keep from dwelling on the past or holding on to the bad times. This way, we don't lead ourselves into resentment, cynicism and bitterness. If we want to get angry and scream at God because we think it's His fault, that's okay. He can handle our anger. God might not appear to care, but He does. He promises us that. We can give up on Him and walk away, but how much better off will we be?

You might believe that you must stop loving Eden, but that's not true. We can love even when we know that love will never be returned. We are allowed to love someone even if that person is gone. What we miss is their presence, but that doesn't mean we must stop loving them.

As Maclean wrote, it is those who we love the most who so often elude us. But we can still love them. We can love them completely, without complete understanding.

Loving is not the same as holding on because "holding on" implies that we hope the loved one will come to their senses and return. Love is an action based on free choice despite the consequences. Love only becomes painful when it demands something in return. And though it may take time, you will find joy in loving those who might not even be aware of your love.

Understand, son, that we can only help those who have hit rock bottom when we ourselves have seen existence through that same lens. Therefore, you can use the pain you've experienced to ease the pain in others. This does not mean God purposefully inflicts pain or is the author of loss, nor does it mean that every time we experience loss or pain that God is behind the cause. But it does mean that God can take the bad things and turn them into beautiful things. But that takes time. It cannot happen overnight.

I'm sorry that I have rambled on and on, but I sometimes must write out my thoughts before I share them with you. In my old age, it helps me articulate what I want to say. Know Clayton, I love you. Your parents love you, your brother loves you, and above all, God loves you. Dwell on these things. Hang in there and stay encouraged. As the old saying goes, "This too will pass."

-Grandpa

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