One of the consequences of trying to live a life of love – of being willing to enter deeply enough into relationship with other people to let them touch us – is that there will be times when people will treat us badly.
Let’s face it, no one likes being treated badly. We all want people to treat us with respect, kindness, affection and love. Especially if we have treated them that way.
Of all the things that make us very uncomfortable, one of the things that is incredibly difficult to take well, is the feeling that we’ve been taken advantage of, used by another person. For example, someone behaves friendly and warm toward us when they need something from us, but then once their need is satisfied, they act unkindly or just walk away. Part of our reaction in such situation is sadness. Part is anger at the injustice of being used and of having our kindness returned with meanness and/or indifference. Sometimes there even arises a desire (which is usually only temporary and not acted on, but still must be recognized as there) of wanting to strike back.
One possible response is to lick our wounds and say, “I won’t let that happen again. I’ll be more careful to whom I extend myself in the future.” But, sigh, if we are committed to living a life of love, that’s not how we will respond.
I once before quoted something that Cardinal Ratzinger said in an interview given prior to becoming Pope Benedict XVI. He said, “love means being dependent on something that can perhaps be taken away from me, and therefore introduces a huge risk of suffering into my life.” Although that gives rise to the temptation to say no, thank you to love, “[t]he decision that comes from Christ is another: Yes to love.”
Yes to Christ, yes to love, means being willing to be vulnerable, means opening ourselves to being taken advantage of. That’s part of the price. Not an easy one to have to pay as it sometimes hurts a lot. But there is no other way for us to live and I wouldn’t have it any other way.