Thomas Merton wrote, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

Could this be why it often feels so important to us that the people we love follow our script? That they validate our worldview? That they reinforce our beliefs?

I think often we try to twist the ones we love because we want them to make our lives feel more comfortable. We want them to give us permission to be complacent. To help us to avoid the difficult process of self-examination– not to mention the painful aftershocks associated with any kind of real transformation or growth.

But friends? This isn’t love.

Love isn’t a warm blanket, or an echo chamber or an exercise in soul sculpting— far from it.

Love is a proving ground.
Not for them, but for us.

It is an act of courage, a test of patience and a leap of faith all at once. It is a willingness to choose the people who challenge us instead of trying to change them. When we really love someone, we commit ourselves to the process of loosening our suffocating grip on their decisions, their behaviors and their beliefs. We choose, instead, to dig deep. To reach for and hold tightly to our knowledge of their intentions— even when they’ve hurt us.

Especially when they’ve hurt us.

Love demands that we make space for the humanity in others. That we open ourselves up to the possibility of being transformed by the very pieces of their truth that don’t quite fit our mold. And most of all, love calls us to accept these people as they are, instead of trying to shape them into whatever form makes us feel more at peace with ourselves, or resolved about the world.

The people we love most are both our challenge and our reward. Which means, it’s never been their job to help us fall asleep behind the wheel of our own lives. Quite the opposite, really: They were put here to wake us up.