When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I discovered those little crabs at the beach that bury into the sand. I loved them instantly. So I decided to keep a few of them in a jar and take them home with me. In the back of my mind, I felt like I should leave them in their homes; the place where they would have probably been the happiest. But at the same time I loved them and wanted to keep them for myself. I told myself I could take good care of them and I was sure they would be happy with me. So I put sand and sea water in a jar then captured a few crabs to take home.
When we reached home, I reached down and picked up the jar. When I looked into it, I had found that the crabs had floated to the top of the sea water. It took me a second to realize I had never poked holes in the top of the jar and that they all had suffocated.
I had been sure that the crabs would be safe and happy with me, but instead I bought about a terrible ending for them. When I look back on this memory, I don’t so much blame the lack of air for the end of the crabs, but instead, my own selfishness.
When we cling to a living thing, we give it less room to breathe. We want it to be ours; we want to claim it solely as our own. In the end, we don’t do it any favors. It’s easy to cling to a crush or a boyfriend or girlfriend with good intentions– with the feeling that that person will be happy and content with us as their source of affection– but when we fail to realize that people do not belong to us but instead belong to God, we end up not only treating human beings as possessions, but we also suffocate them. In reality, we are not driven by our good intentions, but instead our selfish desire to be needed.
In The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, there is a conversation between a woman and her brother who are both in the afterlife. The woman is demanding that her son be brought to her because the boy belongs to her and nothing– possibly not even Heaven– can make the boy as happy as she could. She then becomes angry with her brother and even God for not immediately giving her back her son, not listening to her brother’s words that human beings can only make each other happy temporarily and that her “love” is, in truth, a false god. Later, the supporting character says to the protagonist, “She loved her son too little, not too much… That kind is sometimes perfectly ready to plunge the soul they say they love in endless misery if only they can still in some fashion possess it.”