Part 2: Beautiful Shadows

20 February 2014


For Part 1, read here.

I remember when the concept of loving another fully hit home to me.

Up until that point, love seemed pretty understandable.  I don't remember ever being sat down by my parents and taught how to love, except before the ages of 5, "you love your sister by hugging her, not hitting her."  GOT IT, MAMA!  As I ran off to put dirt in my brother's hair, because that wasn't excluded in my love lesson.  Oh, also, I remember another conversation.... around the age of 15...  GOT IT, MAMA!  As I ran off to go do anything else, like put dirt in my own hair.

But really, I always felt my propensity to love others was very full.  I cared about the people in my life very devoutly, very loyally, very intimately.  And I cared for other people when no one else did, being told on many, many occasions that I had a gift for befriending the friendless and appreciating the underdog.  Cool.  Well then I must be a Loving Master.  God, you can conclude my lessons now.

Cute request, He said.  But juvenile.  No.

Because more of life happened, and then I learned that it is very easy to love people who love me back, or who are so gracious to receive it, or who share in my commonalities.  But it's harder to love people who I don't feel consonant with in any way, who seem so far off, or who are just grating in general.  AND, it's the hardest of all to love people who have hurt me directly. 

But then I was laying in bed one night last fall, reading a book called Visions of Glory.  To be honest, I never finished the book because it just kept getting more and more strange.  Something like the movie Cloudy with a Chance Meatballs where it starts out super cute and sweet-feeling, but the movie progresses into such a level of ridiculousness that by the end, my anxiety is at an all-time high and I'm screaming, WHAT IN THE FREAK IS HAPPENING??  So this book had a minor, similar effect, BUT, the beginning impacted me so strongly that I requested to borrow it from my co-worker twice, just so I could sink into its beautifully portrayed concept of love.

The book is about a man who dies, experiences a bit of the realm beyond, and comes back to share his experiences.  I'm aware stories like these are highly dubious - as I hugged this book, singing it's praise, and the man I was dating at the time went out and bought it, and then returned it the next day, shaking his head.  But we agreed the way it paints love couldn't be more true.

The protagonist grew up in a sticky home situation.  His father left at an early age, leaving his mother to raise children and upkeep a home by herself.  She grew increasingly detached and vexed towards those around her.  Thus, the main character had strained relationships with each of them, as their subpar actions had severely affected him and caused a lot of pain.

However, when the man passed away, he was standing in the hospital room above his own body, and as he thought of his parents, he saw them from beginning to end.  He fully comprehended his father's challenges in his younger years, seeing why he felt the need to abandon the family.  Then the he saw his mother's intense pain from her childhood and the emotional impact and demands from the abandonment, and all these accrued feelings of isolation caused her to withdraw from people.  So the understanding behind their actions had wiped away his embedded pain, being replaced with complete empathy and love towards his parents.  He saw them in full, who they were and why there were that way, and his love for them was just as complete.

Then he observed the nurse who was in the hospital room attending to his dying body, and he experienced the same far-reaching vision of her.  He knew she was having an affair with the doctor, but he knew her pains, her worries, her strong hidden feelings of fear, and he felt such a magnifying love towards her as well.  Judgment was nonexistent, because when you see someone so completely, you understand the reason behind all their actions and your empathy's are heightened.  Not validating that their actions are okay but having substantial benevolence to see they are doing their best (or at least the patience that someday they will be..)

When this man returned back to his earthly body, he noted his mind wasn't as clear or complete as when he was in the spirit realm.  His ability to generate such immediate love was hindered, as he could now only see a limited side of people.  But now that he understood such a higher perception, he knew that was what it meant to really love.   

Thus reveals the ultimate love lesson - compassion. Seeing people in full, earnestly trying to understand their pains, aware that a greater story exists, and trusting that others are doing their best.

That's why all my favorite movies and books are about one character - because you come to know and adore them from every angle.  Always understanding their thoughts, intentions, hurts.  Viewing them as if they are only person in the world, knowing where they come from, saddened when they slip-up, and happy when they triumph.  Like Jane Eyre and Easy-A.  Which are two polar examples, as one is about upstanding virtue and the other is pretending to sell it out... but both offer such a connection to the character.

And aren't we all trying to reconcile our confusions and hurts and sometimes these inhibit our best output?  Don't we all have hidden bits of ourselves that no one else knows?  People are so wired to only see what is visible.  But to be able to see what is unseen in another and understand them more - that is rare.

And sometimes the most beautiful parts of people are hidden in their shadows.  Shadows that make the brave parts of us even braver.  We don't want to miss seeing that side of people.

Beautiful Shadows.

Love says: I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying. Our culture doesn’t love love; It loves the idea of love. It wants the emotion without the sacrifice.
—  Matt Chandler

First Image Source
Second Image Source


  1. Oh I LOVE this concept... seeing people in "full". This kind of empathy and compassion is exactly what the world needs. I can't imagine the happiness and love I would feel for people if I could learn this skill! Thank you so much Chantel for sharing your insights and thoughts. Your words ALWAYS make my day better.

  2. YES! YES! YES!!! I have truly learned to feel and experienced more love, compassion and empathy for those around me when I learn to see them. Really see them. When we share our true selves. When we are honest and vulnerable. When we are true. That is when I am able to feel a much deeper love for others than I have ever experienced.

  3. OK, I adore the last part about people being hidden in shadows. So much. But I also mostly love this entire sentence because YES: "Something like the movie Cloudy with a Chance Meatballs where it starts out super cute and sweet-feeling, but the movie progresses into such a level of ridiculousness that by the end, my anxiety is at an all-time high and I'm screaming, WHAT IN THE FREAK IS HAPPENING??"

  4. If we could only see others as they truly are, from beginning to end, how different the world would be...compassion, empathy, uncondional love...someday maybe we will and our hearts will be opened up to a whole new level of understanding and knowledge.

    Chantel your posts are thought provoking. Thank you for sharing them.