Fearing the Light

light under door

What if it isn’t the darkness we fear? What if it’s the light?

The other night as I lay struggling (in small measure) against feelings of vulnerability and fear, I thought about how much I hated the darkness I felt.

I then recalled being a young girl, hiding in a tiny dark room with light seeping in from under the door. I hid from what lay on the other side, in the light, and I realized now as an adult, that it’s not the darkness I fear so much as the light.

It’s easy to retreat into the safety of darkness rather than face the vulnerability of the light, to face love or potential rejection; happiness and pain both. It’s easier to avoid it all and seek comparable comfort.

I’ve known so many who say they have been rejected too many times, that they are done with dating, perhaps just for a time, a break, perhaps forever. Maybe our emotional well-being is not so different from our physical well-being. Just like when our bodies are overwhelmed by pain and we faint, perhaps our emotions can only take so much and we require immediate relief from the heartache.

Studies show that our brain registers emotional and physical pain in the same area, which is why emotional heartache really does feel like pain; it is.

Love isn’t the only source of light, although it is probably the most important in all its forms. We should call it the love spectrum. The Greeks have four words for love:

  • AGAPE This word was used in Greek literature to refer to someone who was generously favored by a god. It has the idea of a person giving all his or her love or favor to another. It was used to speak of parents giving all of their love to their only child. So in the New Testament it is used to make the same point. God gives each of us all of His love.
  • PHILEO This Greek word has the idea of emotional love, while AGAPE emphasizes the complete giving of love to another person. PHILEO emphasizes the affection, emotion, a fondness one person has for another.
  • EROS refers to love between a husband and wife. It is more than sexual ecstasy because it also includes embraces, longing, and caring.
  • STERGO primarily refers to love between parents and children. It sometimes refers to love between people and their ruler and to love between a dog and his owner.

We place so much emphasis on romantic love, it’s easy to overlook the other rich forms of love we have in our lives.

arms outstretched

To me, the light not only represents love, but also fulfillment in career, in hobbies, in social life and in life itself. It is so much easier, for example, to go through the motions at work without forcing ourselves to reach ever higher, to excel or to find the career path that will bring more fulfillment to our lives, because the very effort can make us vulnerable to failure, to looking bad as we seek improvement, or may simply require increased effort. It is easier not to try new hobbies, especially in a public arena, but to sit on the sidelines. So we sit in a safe place, neither risking nor growing. That seems less living than merely existing.

So what do we miss by staying in the darkness? Love and life itself, it would seem.

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