It’s a bit of a romance novel cliche – the person who has been hurt and thinks they cannot open their heart or love again. In romance novels that tends to resolve, but in real life often it doesn’t.
No one wants to suffer (well, aside from masochists but that’s another story). Some of us are perhaps too open to being hurt – family patterns can have us expecting love to be painful and thus not holding good boundaries. However, trying to protect yourself from pain can all too easily mean missing out on a lot of life.
To care is to be open to being hurt. Care invites empathy, and no one and nothing in this world will continue forever in some pristine, untroubled, healthy, happy state. To love someone is to be open to being hurt by whatever hurts them, at the very least. It means loving people, cats, trees etc even though you know that when they die it’s going to hurt unbearably. And yet you choose to bear it.
Sometimes the people you love will let you down. Maybe by accident. Maybe because their needs don’t align with yours. Maybe deliberately. If you aren’t prepared to risk some of that, you can’t have trust, or any kind of depth, or any scope for natural human error.
If you are determined to avoid hurt, you might not be willing to deal with the discomfort of having got something wrong. That shuts down opportunities to learn, and to improve things. It means as soon as something goes wrong, the entire relationship is in trouble. The more set you are on avoiding pain, the more likely it is that you are demanding impossible levels of perfection from everything and everyone around you. That in turn means you’re setting everyone up to fail because you won’t be perfect and neither will they. Pain avoidance becomes, perversely, something entirely likely to get you hurt.
Beyond our human relationships, we need to be willing to get hurt over what is happening with the climate crisis. If we try to insulate ourselves from that, we’re simply going to add to the problem. If we’re willing to be uncomfortable, we can change things. The more we push to try and stay comfortable, the more likely we are to destroy the very things we depend on for that comfort.
If we want what is good in our lives, then we have to be willing to care enough about it that we give it the power to hurt us.