affections affectivity

A Clean Slate: When It's Time to Give Love a Second Chance

6:00:00 AMHannah Bruckner


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Dating can be gut-wrenching.  I mean, really, really gut-wrenching.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t need to be told this.  After countless failed relationships, disappointments,  messy break-ups, struggling with long-distance, or battling with chastity, it is so easy to become jaded when it comes to finding “the one.”  We become so angry in our pursuit of a lifelong partner that we can even forget why it is we desire love in the first place; or worse: we start believing that we don’t deserve love after all.  

The hardship of rebuilding, learning to love again, to surrender, and to trust another person after a major heartbreak is difficult and often painfully crippling.  This has been especially thematic for me lately, as one of my good friends has started dating again after an unexpected split with her longtime boyfriend.

After months of tears, retail therapy, late nights talking through every detail of her breakup over glasses of wine, and evenings “treating ourselves” to a night out on the town, the one issue that she remained hung-up on was this:

it is hard to give someone a clean slate and a fresh start when we are so used to being hurt and disappointed by others in the past.         

In all of her desire to move forward, her eyes have been fixed on the past.  Since Guy 1 treated me this way, Guy 2 will likely be no different.  Guy 1 struggled with [insert flaw here]; Guy 2 probably sucks at that, too.

You get the point.

And don’t get me wrong — I’m not criticizing my friend in the slightest!  I think it’s only natural that we become guarded and cautious as we try to move forward.  There is only so much that one heart can take.  

I would just like this post to serve as an open letter of encouragement to my Friend.  Let this be one of those little daily reminders:

love deserves a second chance.

In classic-Hannah-fashion, I take a lot of my dating cues from Dietrich von Hildebrand, who never fails to call me out of my own jadedness by reminding me that “love always assumes what is best in the other…Love entertains the more favorable opinion toward all that is doubtful” (1).  

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Conceptually, most of us would probably agree.  Practically, however, it’s a little bit “easier said than done.”  What does it look like — giving love a second chance?  —giving men the benefit of the doubt? —jumping into a new relationship without the baggage of past relationships clouding one’s vision?

Per usual, the answer goes something like this:

we must be willing to surrender.  

To my friend:  I get it; I really do.  Surrender is hard.  It’s scary.  Surrender can feel a lot like trust-falling off of a platform without any view of the people catching you at the bottom.  And it’s okay that you feel this way; but don’t allow yourself to stay trapped in the feeling.  We must be fearless in our pursuit of love if love is what we truly desire.  

Love by its very nature is generous.  This means that surrender looks a lot like actively choosing to forgive men in general.  One man, the wrong man, may have let you down.  But this cannot be held against all men, for “love’s generous credit is intimately bound up in its surrender” (2).  If it is a generous love you wish to receive, it is a generous love that you must be willing to give.  

The payoff, Hildebrand says, is all the greater for it; for in loving generously, one becomes “oriented completely toward the other” (3).  Instead of being oriented toward the past, we are oriented to the present.  This is intimately bound-up with Hildebrand’s deeply held personalism, for if we are truly responding to the value of each and every person that we come into contact with, that means we must be willing to see each individual as their own person in their own right.  Just because Guy 1 failed doesn’t mean Guy 2 should be treated with contempt or skepticism.  Doing so would only allow the pain to win.

Today, I just want to invite you to let love win.    

This is not the end of your story.  Don’t ever forget that the world is still full of beauty, your heart is full of love, and people often tend to be more kind and generous and good than we give them credit for.    

This isn’t some lofty, conceptual truth either; but a real invitation to live our philosophy of personalism.  After all, what good is a belief-system if it cannot be a truly lived philosophy?  Realistically, “love reckons with the possibility that there may be imperfections which must be faced as unpleasant but temporary facts, even though it will never be prejudiced by them.  The loving credit does not dwell in an ethereal or unreal region.  It does not mount Pegasus.  Rather, it fortifies itself on ground which is altogether real” (4).  Be fortified in the truth that you are deserving of a fresh start.

Here’s hoping 2017 brings you blessings, joy, and a whole ‘lotta love.

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  1. Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Dietrich von Hildebrand Life Guide, 55.
  2. Ibid, 56.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.

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