Whether you like Nazareth’s Scottish hard-rock/chest hair/great mustaches version, or the kinder, gentler Emmylou/Graham Parson’s version, “Love Hurts” is a truly amazing song.
But it only tells half the story.
Love hurts, love scars“Love Hurts,” Boudleaux Bryant
Love wounds and marks any heart
Not tough, or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain
I’m young, I know
But even so
I know a thing or two
I’ve learned from you
I really learned a lot, really learned a lot
Love is like a flame, it burns you when it’s hot
Some fools think
Of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness
Some fools fool themselves I guess
They’re not fooling me
I know it isn’t true, I know it isn’t true
Love is just a lie, made to make you blue
Just like Neil Young says, “only love can break your heart,” yes: love hurts. It does, in fact, wound and scar.
And it does take a lot of pain.
But here’s the thing that the lyric leaves off (and even I hate to admit it):
In this life, pain is the main mechanism for our growth.
So, as painful as love can be, and as bad as it can hurt, it’s also the way in which our lives can get a little bit larger, and more whole, and even more resilient.
And over time, if you “do pain right”, or “suffer productively”, we can see our lives get a little more capacity for joy, and wonder, and—get this—even more love.
I think most all of us love something, or somebody, which means we’ve probably all been hurt. When I hurt because of love, my reaction is often to silently declare, “Well, I’ll never do that again,” meaning risk myself, extend myself, reveal my soul.
(By the way: I’m talking here about “love” in the grander, more expansive sense, not merely romantic love. I’m also talking about the deep, rich love and affection that can grow up between people in community, sharing lives together. THIS love can be just as powerful as any romantic love.)
But that—the pulling BACK from love (and pain) is to move towards isolation, and (ironically) the potential for MORE fear.
Which can start a pretty unpleasant cycle.
So yeah, love hurts. But that’s not the whole story. I’m learning that to risk, and to love, and to hurt, and to grow is better than to not have loved at all.
Love also heals us, and grows us, and helps to make us slightly better human beings.