Whoa buddy. Before we deep dive into the topic of potential, I think it's important to say something that is very important, and relevant, about love. And yes, I'm going to broach this from a biblical perspective. I John 4:8&16 tells us that God is love and, I Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, tells us that love is things like patient (bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like) and that it bears all things (think about all of this, the next time you get ready to say "I love you" to someone). When it comes to what God knows about me, I know that I can be a handful and a continual work in progress so, yes, I do believe that a big part of love's purpose is to see someone as they could or should be and not necessarily as they currently are. True and divine love is about believing in the best about someone and supporting them through their evolutions (which is what should be a foundational principle in marriage, if you ask me).
It's kinda like the quote by Canadian columnist Richard J. Needham who once said, "You don't marry one person; you marry three: the person you think they are, the person they are, and the person they are going to become as the result of being." A lot of married folks call it quits because they forget (or deliberately choose to ignore) that very profound insight.
Yeah, love isn't about feeling good all of the time or being with someone who acts like they memorized the script of your favorite rom-com. As the Good Book says, "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (I Corinthians 13:7—NLT)
I think all of this needs to go on record because what we're about to tackle, well…it's not that I'm saying that it's impossible to love a work in progress. The truly humble and self-aware folks know that we all are a work in progress. Only delusional people expect relationships to be perfect when the two people in them are anything but. However, it's one thing to choose to love someone who is rough around the edges, you're totally aware of that fact, you don't try and make things be what they aren't and you decide to stay, deal and endure. It's something entirely different when there are all kinds of signs and red flags that you think you should overlook because you believe that your love either makes those things irrelevant or, your love is going to somehow miraculously change an individual. The first scenario is dealing in realism. The second? Well, that is someone who thinks that it's truly possible to fall in love with potential. Here's why I call BS on Door #2.
What Is Potential? Exactly.
I am always tickled when an article topic will pull up a song in my mental rolodex that I haven't thought about in a while. Today, it's Brandy's classic "Almost Doesn't Count". And yes, for context, I'm going to include all of the first verse.
Almost made you love me
Almost made you cry
Almost made you happy, baby
Didn't I didn't I
You almost had me thinking
You were turned around
But everybody knows
Almost doesn't count
Almost heard you saying
You were finally free
What was always missing for you, baby
You'd found it in me
But you can't get to heaven
Half off the ground
Almost doesn't count
Almost. Almost does not count. It doesn't count because the word means "little short of being; very nearly". The saying "close but no cigar" immediately comes to mind. The reason why almost emotionally trips so many of us up is because it literally means that something—or in this case, someone—is right on the verge of being what we want or need…close but ain't. Yeah, and please don't let the definition of the word "being" escape you either. It means "existence" or "substance". A definition of exist is "occur". A definition of substance is "physical matter or material". The reason why Brandy is so right when she says that a man almost was the one but he wasn't is because he almost proved himself to be right…but what she thought was there actually didn't exist (occur) and wasn't of substance (physical matter or material). If something you thought was there wasn't…it doesn't really count…does it?
And that's what makes the word "almost" a sibling to the word "potential". Potential means "possible, as opposed to actual". The words to focus on here are "possible" and "actual". Check it.
Possible: capable of existing and taking place; having potential or capabilities for favorable use or development; that may or may not happen or have happened; feasible but less than probable
Actual: existing in act or fact; real; existing now; present; current
Lawd, lawd. The parts that are underlined and in bold? That is by design. Something or someone who has potential? That is something or someone who yes, it is feasible that they could manifest into what you need, want or desire; however, at the same time, the chances of that happening are—please pay attention here—less than probable. This means that it's less likely that what you are expecting will actually occur.
So, when a person says that they are in love with someone else's potential, what they are essentially saying is they are investing in someone becoming what is less than likely to actually occur.
The reasons why are endless. It might be because the person they are involved with isn't interested in becoming different. It might be because, in this season, that individual is incapable of growth or change. It could also be because the person who loves them doesn't actually love them; they love who they conjured up in their mind whether it was out of desperation, control tendencies or a fairy tale perception of what love and relationships are really all about. Or, it could be something else. Whatever the case may be, potential could happen but, based on the definition of the word, it's not something to bet next month's rent on. In other words, potential is a gamble. A super risky one, at that.
Meanwhile, when something is actual—which is essentially the opposite of potential—that speaks to what is real. Real is an interesting word too. Two of its definitions include "true" and "existing or occurring as fact; actual rather than imaginary, ideal, or fictitious". Real? It deals in facts not fiction. It's based on what is actually the truth. Actual also speaks to what exists right now. It's not about what could happen next month or next year; it's about what you are dealing with at the present moment. Now, keeping all of these definitions in mind, let's touch down on why it's actually impossible to fall in love with someone based on their potential.
Why You Can Never Actually to Be in Love with Potential
At this stage in my life, I'm intentionally using the word "love" less and less. As I am learning more about what the word means and what it requires, I find it to be pretty sacred. That's why I'm trying to get away from (for instance) saying I love my godchildren and I love rocky road ice cream. My godbabies deserve more honor than that. And don't even get me started on the phrase "in love" and how much it's abused. A part of the reason why I wrote the articles "Like, Love & In Love: How To Really Know The Differences", "Are You In Love Or Are You In Need?" and "5 Signs That You're In Love (All By Yourself)" is because to be "in love" with someone means that another person is actually on the same page with you—they have the same kind of feelings, they are in the same type of relationship and, for the most part, you both have the same type of relational goals and expectations. The word "in" literally means "in or into some place, position, state, relation, etc." while "with" means "accompanied by; accompanying", so no…you cannot actually be in love with someone without them being in love with you as well.
Do you see where this is going? If you actually keep what being in love means and you already know that potential speaks to "feasible but less than probable", not "real" or "existing now", how can you possibly be in love with potential? Isn't that basically like being in love with an imaginary friend? Sure, you might've been able to create something in your mind but, at the end of the day, it doesn't exist. And since it doesn't exist, it's impossible for it to be "in" or "with" you at all. IT'S. NOT. REAL.
There is one man, in particular, from my past who I totally wasted my time on. Yes, wasted. I hate it when people try and rationalize poor choices by saying that nothing is a waste of time. You can very much so make decisions that "consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return"—and this guy is a perfect example of that. It's not that he was the devil incarnate. Not even close. He had some traits that were truly wonderful; that is a real fact. Yet what I made the mistake of doing was allowing those qualities to override all of the bullshishery that he put on display, time and time again, too. I thought that, because he had some exceptional traits that they would—should and could—cancel out all of the red flags. I wholeheartedly believed that his good qualities had the potential to do so.
Hmph. After 15-plus years of knowing this brotha, the good is still good; the red flags are still flapping away. At one point, I was putting heartfelt emotions, precious time and even some of my resources into both—the real and the potential—all the while believing that my love would make him want to become a better man.
Nothing can make a man become better other than him choosing to do so (same thing goes for women). Love may inspire someone to want to change but it doesn't automatically happen unless they want it to.
Unfortunately, a lot of women refuse to believe and/or accept this. Instead, they live in what I call "mirage love". When a person is super thirsty in a desert, they can create a mirage (something illusory, without substance or reality) that there is water when there actually isn't. When a woman is so desirous for a man to become what she has created in her imagination, she can confuse potential with what actually exists—and she'll keep doing that until she realizes that what she's holding onto is all in her head. If she doesn't wake up to this reality, yes, she is totally wasting her time. The guy isn't the waste of time. Her holding onto what isn't real is.
The actual guy? Everyone's lines of tolerance are different. So, at least for today, I'm not going to get into if the ACTUAL MAN you are choosing to love is worth the investment. What I will say is the more we love ourselves, the more our standards tend to rise. What I will also say is if you are going to bestow anyone with something as sweet, special and wonderful as your love, at least make sure you're giving it to something that is real…and potential ain't.
I already know. Just like some people in the desert will swear there is a pool of water that is 10 feet away from them, some women will not budge on believing that loving the potential of a man is a good and beneficial thing. Yet for the ladies reading this who feel like they are stuck in a relationship—or situationship—to the point that it is draining everything out of them…take a moment to ask yourself if any of what I just said resonated. Ponder over the fact that you could be like a person who is boxing the air; that you are someone who loves potential…something that doesn't truly exist.
If that is you, the good news is there's no time like the present to stop. While ole' boy is out here being and doing whatever he is actually being and doing, what is real is you and who you can really love is yourself. Bottom line, being in love is defined as being in something real with someone else. Potential makes that impossible. And that's the God honest truth, y'all. All facts. No fiction.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
What If You Love Someone You Can't Have?
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