Over the past 26 years I've had some success (mostly failure) when it comes to loving people well. However, I am growing and learning from Jesus more and more every single year. For many, love is a feeling, for others it is an action, but it's crazy to me that love is who God is, not even a simple characteristic, but it's literally WHO HE IS. Every year Easter time makes me very reflective (and weepy) about God's love for us. And every Easter I am reminded that 1 Year = 365 opportunities (366 this year!) to show the love that I have found in Christ to others. So, here are 26 things I've learned from Jesus and others around me in order to love others, from friends and foes to strangers and sinners, well.
1. Go beyond the small talk // I could small talk all day if that's what other people really want to do, but there is something so special about sharing memories and ideas with others. Get curious and ask questions. Figure out their family history, favorite memories with their kids, enneagram number, the way they like their eggs cooked. I challenge you to go beyond the small talk and get to the heart of what makes people themselves!
2. Look beyond yourself // In a world full of "self" (whether it's being selfish or simply having a wonderful self-care day), it's easy to get tunnel vision on your goals and your dreams. Don't forget about people, even if they forget about you.
3. Just be kind // I feel like the word "kind" is very underrated. Nowadays, it's cool and sexy to be cynical, sarcastic, and rudely-opinionated. I'm not exactly too sure who said it, but "In a world where you can be anything... be kind!" Showing kindness might look different for each individual and their emotional needs, but just be kind.
4. Encourage // I've heard it plainly said, "If you're breathing, you need encouragement." Even if you think you don't, you do (I know I do)! Let someone know what they're good at, when they did a good job, that you're thinking of them, etc. Extend words to others that you want to be given yourself.
5. Show up // Raise your metaphorical hand if you're busy *raises hand* Okay, cool, me too! We're all "busy" but showing love means showing up. Not when it's easy or convenient, but especially during the hard days and trying times -- rejection, miscarriages, diseases, death, heartbreak. You'll be amazed at the number of people who will come out of the woodwork for you after you've shown up for them.
6. Invite them // Listen to this cycle and tell me if this sounds familiar. You tell your friend about the plans you have on Saturday afternoon you're excited for. Saturday afternoon comes and you go do your thing. You hop on Instagram and suddenly you see your friends hanging out, no one has invited you and your feelings get hurt, "Why wasn't I invited? Do my friends secretly hate me? Did I offend them?" You quickly spiral. The next day comes and you all are hanging out and your one friend says those oddly satisfying words, "I would've invited you, but I remembered you had plans!" PHEW, that was a close call. Here's the deal, even if you know they can't come, invite them anyways! The text goes something like this "Hey! I know you said you had plans on Saturday, but I just wanted you to know that I want you to come to ____. Again, I know you're busy, but I love you and I wanted you to know that I wanted you there! But I hope you enjoy your day!" Simple. As. That.
7. Include others // From #6 above, you might be asking, "What if I don't want them there?" Here's the thing, please don't invite toxic people into your life and allow them to stay. Extreme narcissists, kleptomaniacs, etc. protect your family and yourself! And I also think that there is definitely a time and place to have people over. Sometimes you can physically and financially only have one or two people over, maybe you want to have a movie night specifically with your best friends - and I'm saying... DO IT! However, if you are having multiple people over, being exclusive is not showing love to others, and I just need us all to more cognizant of that!
8. Ask hard questions // I firmly believe in this one, because I swear that asking questions is probably one of the only things I am extremely confident in my ability to do. You can ask the people I love dearly... I ask hard questions, very hard questions (I'm sorry). It's not that I mean to pry or to question someone's motives, but it's because I believe figuring out why people do what they do is a form of getting to know the depths of their being and who God created them to be. For me, asking questions is a form of loving someone.
9. Give soft answers // Read Proverbs 15:1. The idea of someone (especially in front of people) saying something hurtful and rude and sarcastic to you is just annoying to think about. BUT allowing someone to intentionally say harmful things and not saying anything back or confront the opposing party? -- Now that takes true character and self control. Be gentle and be sure not to jump down throats, even if those "throats" are deserving.
10. Share a meal // When you can't seem to connect with someone, everyone's gotta eat! One of my favorite things about Jesus is that it always feels like the guy was constantly chowing down, or at least around food. Jesus loved people over meals. He went to dinner with all different kinds of people and talked about everything under the sun. I want you to remember that Jesus even shared MULTIPLE meals with a man who would literally be the reason for his death. If that isn't love and humility between hamburger buns, I don't know what it!
11. Share a smile // #11 goes hand-in-hand with #10, but it's on a smaller scale. Say, you don't know a person well enough, or feel comfortable enough to go to a meal with someone, share a smile instead! It sounds silly, but a smile indicates you're approachable (I think this is why people always stop and ask me for directions). When you're approachable people would rather talk to you, and therefore you are able to love them more. Smiling is an easy way to start loving people when you don't know where to start.
12. Push them to be better & not stay comfortable // Along with asking questions, this is another small (unfortunate) strong-suit of mine. For me specifically, asking questions is a large part of how I help my friends push themselves outside of their comfort zone. Figure out how you can help others around you be a better (and BEST) version of themselves. (I feel like this one is particularly specific to Enneagram 3's), but I truthfully think this has some validity when it comes to loving your friends well and hard.
13. Apologize easily // Don't hold grudges. Set your pride aside. Empathize with others. Recognize when you're wrong. Value relationships over being "right". Apologize. It's truthfully not that hard.
14. Be more patient // Growing up, I loved math and all its formulas -- simple and calculated. One thing I've learned about people is that they are not as simple at all and some "equations" are harder than others. Give grace and be patient, because (quick reminder alert:) we are not as simple and rose-smelling as we think we are.
15. See the benefit of the doubt // As humans, we seek to understand and to be understood. Do this for others. Practice assuming the best in others because it's so easy to do the opposite. And just a bonus tip: if you're struggling because you don't know the "whole story", ASK THEM (kindly)!
16. Let it roll off your shoulder // One thing I am really learning about myself (that I don't like very much), is that I am quick to anger. Most of the time, around people, I let things go. I am very quick to see another side of an argument before getting thoroughly upset, HOWEVER, it's very easy for me to get a hot head if something doesn't go as planned or expected. I tend to not show this often in public, but WATCH OUT if you're at my house when I'm trying to make simple technology work. However, God has been graciously teaching me to relax, and let things roll off my shoulder a little more every day. Not because things aren't important or don't hold value to me, but because in the grand scheme of things, I personally need to value relationships over what is right.
17. Give more // When you see that someone needs help, give all the help you can. When you think you can’t give anymore, give more! God will provide you with everything you need, everything else is His anyways. Be generous!
18. Pray with them // When someone comes to you with a problem first listen. Then simply ask if you can pray for them, right then. It's not super hard, but I promise it will make a major impact, especially on those who aren't particularly religious.
19. Pray for them // If they don't (or do) let you pray for them, make sure to talk to the Lord and go to the throne on behalf of them. I promise you, even the most difficult people you deal with (ya know, the ones you really can't stand), your heart will start to soften towards them the more you pray for them.
20. Listen // Don't listen to give advice. Don't listen to gain information. Don't listen to internally compare your life to theirs. Listen to learn and really hear what others are trying to say. A helpful hint, when someone is venting... make sure to ask, "Do you want me to give advice, or do you just someone to listen with no judgement?" They might need one thing or they might need both, but in that moment you will know exactly what they need.
21. Laugh // Bob Goff. If you've never heard of him, go look him up, come back and please let me know how much your internal joy meter (yes, we scientifically all have one) has increased! Laughter and joy is contagious. The people around you have enough stress and anxiety. Be a place of joy, laughter, and love when people choose to spend time with you!
22. Unconditionally Love // Again, please use wisdom when it comes to toxic and dangerous people in your own life. With that being said, love others unconditionally, with reckless abandon! Not because they deserve it (and they most definitely do not) but because they don't deserve it! And you didn't deserve it! Jesus is honestly too good to us, and because of that hard fact, unconditionally love others. Forgive, learn, grow, and fight for people because Jesus fought for you.
23. Share resources // Honestly, this has a similar, if not exact same effect as purchasing and giving someone a tangible gift. People like to be reminded of their worth, they like being remembered and they like being thought of, even if it's in a small way! Love them well by sharing a random verse, your favorite graphics, a podcast, youtube videos, songs, etc!
24. Praise in public, correct in private // This one will help you love your friends a little different and deeper. This one also works WONDERS with your spouse, and is just an all-around, good rule-of-thumb. You and your friends are going to argue and to fight. (Flirty bickering is different) No one thoroughly enjoys being called out in public, most of the time, we already nitpick and agonize over that one thing we did or way we said that. In the words of T.Swift, "You have pointed out my flaws again, as if I don't already see them." Praise your people in public, for the world to see! Shower them with REAL (don't be fake) compliments and admiration. And if something bothers you, simply just wait until you've fully processed and you have the time to talk out whatever needs to be talked out.
25. Lead by example & don't expect anything in return // If any of these things seem enticing to you, remember that you cannot expect others to do any of these for/towards you (especially if you don't do it for them). Sure, that would be nice, but remember that you shouldn't do any of this for others in order to get this same treatment in return!
26. Tell them about Jesus // I need you to know that I saved the best for last. Nothing is better than Jesus. If you are a Christ-follower you know and are confident in your eternity, that is the best news! But if you truly want to reflect the purpose and personality of Jesus, tell your friends about the love you have received! This is truly the best and only real way to love others!
I'll make this quick so we can get to the good stuff. This is a crazy time that none of us ever expected to be in. I chose these songs specifically because of the power I believe these lyrics hold. Worship can give us such a deep connection to God, so I pray that today you choose to pause, listen, and reflect. Happy Holy Week!