Years ago, I started writing letters to my sons. There were so many things I wanted to tell them but either the timing wasn’t right or they weren’t in the mood to talk or I felt like what I wanted to share was a bit advanced for their age. I didn’t want those thoughts to go to waste, so I put pen to paper. When Chap and Luke leave our home and start their lives as young men out in the world, one of my gifts to them will be a book of all the letters I’ve written them. For now, I get to share some of them with you. :)
Dear Chapman and Luke,
We talk a lot in our family about being honest with each other, about saying true things and owning our choices even when it’s really hard to do. One of the things that has been difficult for me to work through lately is what to do when someone says or does something that causes me to lose trust in them.
You must pay attention to how people live and be open to the idea that not everyone is deserving of your whole heart.
As I grow older and learn more about the person I am, I have realized that I tend to believe the best about people. I think this is a beautiful thing, and I think it’s an important thing to do. (I will write more about that later.) There is a responsibility, though, that comes with possessing and practicing this beautiful quality and it is this: you must pay attention to how people live and be open to the idea that not everyone is deserving of your trust and of your whole heart.
The truth is that there are people in the world who will not appreciate this quality in you. In fact, they might see this quality in you – your desire to believe the best about a person – and use it for their own good. This is dangerous and selfish and it is the mark of a dark heart.
There have been times in my life when I did not pay attention to how the people around me were living. Or maybe I was paying attention but I wanted whatever they were giving me in the short-term so badly that I was willing to suffer in the long-term. This was not wise, and it ended up hurting me tremendously. From those experiences, I learned that there truly is nothing good that a dishonest person can offer me, regardless of how much short-term happiness their friendship might bring to my life.
When someone shows you with their consistent actions who they are, believe them. This might require you to end a friendship or a relationship because you notice unhealthy patterns in how they treat you, others, or themselves. It might require you to step back and not spend as much time with that person because of how you feel when you are with them.
But on the other side, seeing consistently loving, trustworthy actions in someone helps you to lean in even closer, to give even more of yourself over time because that person continues to show up and be his or her true, honest self. This certainly doesn’t mean that they are perfect, but it does mean that they consider you and your feelings and needs, that they look for ways to give to others, that the things that they care about and the things that you care about match up.
And when this happens, baby, it feels almost like magic.
CT and I were having dinner at a crowded restaurant the other night. We hadn’t spent much time with each other in a few days, and even after all of the time we’ve spent together over the past few years, my stomach still did flip-flops when my eyes caught his as we were talking. I was instantly reminded of the gift it is to be loved by someone who tries to believe the best about me.
When I make mistakes and am feeling down about myself, I know that he is a safe place for me to land because he reminds me of the beauty inside me, of who God made me to be, of the gifts and the talents that I have that make me a special person. When we misunderstand each other, he reaches out his hand for mine and talks to me with a gentle voice and together we make our way through the misunderstanding. And on the other side, we feel that much more close and loved and known.
Trying to believe the best about people is risky because there will be times that you will be hurt and disappointed and confused. As you grow older, you will learn how to look for those who are worthy of your trust and of your whole heart, and you will develop wisdom in choosing friends who help make you a better person. And when you find those people, my prayer is that you will hold onto them tightly, that you will be willing to put them first because of the gift they offer you in just giving you themselves.
One of my favorite songs by Andrew Peterson says, “The only way to find your life is to lay your own life down, and I believe it’s an easy price for the love that we have found.” You will never know and appreciate the true depth of someone’s trust in and love for you if you are not willing to put aside your own self in order to love them. I think that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in this world have no idea what that kind of love looks like. It is my hope and prayer that you become men who are known for having that kind of love and that you know that’s the kind of love that I have for you.
I love you,