I was recently listening to The Mockingcast podcast, where the discussion was about a column by Heather Havrilesky in the Ask Polly segment in The Cut. The Column is entitled, “I Want My Family to Love Me Unconditionally.” Just by looking at the title, I think we can all identify with the reader who wrote to Ask Polly. Don’t we all want to be loved unconditionally and isn’t family the most likely place for that to happen? I always said that siblings were God-given best friends. Since they are family, siblings should have to love you and work things out. Unfortunately, we live in a sinful world and often families are not immune. The reader feels her family has isolated her from her extended family due to an argument 35 years ago which has led to her feelings of depression and bitterness. To add to that, she was an only child. Heather Havrilesky addresses the reader by posing a question. Heather Havrilesky requests the reader to put “all your intellectual efforts and your narratives aside for a minute and open your mind to one thought: What if I’m wrong about everything?”
As Christians, we need to be people of the truth amongst a world where there seems to be no real truth. In our postmodern world, the truth is often claimed to be relative and one’s own narrative conquerors all. This is why the question seems so shocking coming from a secular writer in 2021. It seems to actually admit that maybe there is one truth and your assumptions are not always correct. Heather Havrilesky does admit that allowing yourself to ask this question opens you up to a terrifying conclusion, “That you might be wrong about every single thing you’ve concluded about yourself and the world.” As believers, we can praise God that he has allowed us to know the truth, through His word and the Holy Spirit. Which means the question is not as terrifying for believers, because God’s word is truth and that truth is knowable.
Let’s set aside the cultural commentary for a moment and really look at the question from a Christian perspective. Although I know I am not wrong about everything because I have the truth of God’s word, I often jump to conclusions and assumptions. I can easily assign motives to people based on their actions towards me. If we are honest, we all do it and since valentine’s day just past we talk about relationships. I recently had my first child in December, a little boy named Calvin. My husband is so in love with him. When he comes home from work he runs to hold him no matter where we are in Calvin’s daily schedule. Now my exhausted, critical self thinks my husband is trying to make my life more difficult, especially when the outcome leads to Calvin waking up from his nap too early (because we all know if you open the door to the nursery, the baby can sense you and will start crying no matter how quiet you are). I feel that my husband has no regard for my feelings. I mean, he didn’t even say hello to me. In reality, if you asked my husband, he just wanted to see his son, who he has not seen all day and he wanted to make sure the baby was taken care of so I could finish making dinner without worrying about changing diapers or comforting the baby. He did not say Hello to me because I seemed busy and figured he would check on the baby for me before coming into the kitchen. All valid reasons coming from a heart of love which I had assumed came from if not a desire to hurt me at least from neglecting to think of me. This is common in almost every relationship in our lives. I can assign motives to my parents, in-laws, sisters, and friends. My husband likes to point out how practically every romantic comedy uses assumptions and misunderstandings as a major plot point to ruin a beautiful budding relationship. What would happen if when we started to get annoyed at our sister for that flippant comment about our parenting style assigning motives of passive aggression, instead we stopped and asked, “what if I’m wrong?” Could we mend relationships, or even better stop estrangement and tension before it happens? Could we be humble enough to admit we might be wrong?
We often want people to be different than who they are and place unrealistic expectations on them. Sometimes we do this without even telling the person and then are offended when they don’t deliver. I can’t expect my husband to know I want him to pick up dinner and flowers on the way home from work because I had a hard day without telling him. We want unconditional love in the way we expect it to be given based on our experiences and how we have seen love displayed but we fail to factor in that those around us do not have the same experiences or examples we had. As women I think we have this idea that to discuss how we want to be loved ruins the spontaneity and depth of the love. If I tell my husband to buy me flowers on our anniversary then it’s not that he really wanted to, he’s just doing it. Step back though, doesn’t the fact that he listened to you, remembered and bought the flowers prove his love for you? We must stop comparing our romantic relationships to romantic comedies and instead focus on how God calls us to love, with Jesus as our greatest example.