I remember when I first saw this aphorism, I was almost going to reject it summarily.
But, before I did, I put it to a litmus test and started trying to find exceptions to the rule. Perhaps it is best to start with a definition of the word, “hurt.” There are many degrees of that word, and different, entirely, in every relationship.
And further, to disprove Bob Marley, as soon as you use an absolute, like “everybody,” then there are plenty of exceptions that will instantly come to mind, and make the statement instantly false.
In any close relationship, there are moments when each party leaves the other party wanting in some fashion or another. This arises predominantly from expectations. With an expectation of another person comes the immediate possibility of them not living up to your expectations, leaving you feeling a void. Interestingly, that void is of our own making. One might argue that if you have no expectation of anyone, then no one can let you down.
That sounds logical, but entirely impractical in life for thousands of reasons. As any relationship, personal, professional, or educational, matures, there are countless expectations that originate with the definition of a relationship. Take the professor who does not take time to prepare a syllabus for their class. They lecture with inadequate skills to teach the prerequisite lessons and in the end, the students receive lower grades. The students are left feeling entirely let down by the professor because of appropriate expectations.
In a personal relationship, we are more prone to project expectations of various kinds upon friends, lovers and collaborators. In many cases, these people are living up to and surpassing all that we could ever want or expect. But on the day that they do not, we feel trespassed and those expectations that have long been overdelivered upon, are suddenly under delivered, staring at us in this moment, leaving us scratching our proverbial head.
I think that is what Bob was talking about. When we get close to someone in any kind of relationship and they are stellar, the moment that they are not, we are quick to feel aggrieved and disappointed. When that happens, to Bob’s point, we hope that we have invested of ourselves in the ones that are worth looking past that moment in time, and envisioning a future that goes past that event.
That tired adage…. No one is perfect, as true as it is, is never pleasant comfort at a moment like this. We use it to assuage feelings of sadness, anger, disappointment, frustration, or whatever emotion their actions/choices/statements have stirred up within, but it never really makes it feel better. We still feel the void.
The secret, from my perspective, is to recognize that we have done this numerous times to others, knowingly or unknowingly. It does not excuse the feelings that another has caused you, nor does their actions justify the fact that we have done this to another. But collectively, these combined experiences of feeling it ourselves, and knowing we have caused others to feel this way about us, in perhaps an entirely different scenario, might be enough to suck it up and give that person the benefit of the doubt and allow them room to bring the relationship back into stasis.
Bob says you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for. And that is the truth. And concurrently, we have to be the ones worth suffering for, from other people’s perspectives.
Walking the walk. Being someone of real value and importance to others and to ourselves, is perhaps the highest of all goals in life. Living up to our true measure, with expectations that we place upon ourselves, long before we are willing or able to place those expectations upon others. I think this is the real secret. Then, when someone you care about lets you down, remember that we never fully know what is going on in another’s life. The unseen variables could be far more cataclysmic than we might imagine. Allow them space to be human, love them all the more and give them room to demonstrate over time that what you believed to be true in your relationship, was in fact based in reality…. Even if they were unable to deliver upon that reality 100% of the time.