Sometimes I grow irritated with my fellow human beings after getting stuck in traffic or having to wait for a long time in a public place like the DMV or a doctor’s office. I see people acting rudely and without regard for others (e.g., cutting off other drivers when in a traffic jam, leaving trash strewn about a waiting area, playing music with inappropriate lyrics loudly on their smartphones). I feel frustration when I see these things and I struggle to feel love for the people around me.
I feel a little sheepish admitting this given what we know from Matthew 22:36-40:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This is something with which I struggle and I daresay some of you have felt similarly. As I meditate this Christmas on the birth of Jesus—God sending His son in human form to pay the penalty for our sins—I’m motivated to let go of these frustrations and cultivate love for the people around me. Here’s how I’m trying to do this.
Growing to love people more
- Start thinking of “people” as unique individuals instead of anonymous faces in a crowd. It’s easy to distance myself from others when I see them as a mass instead of as individuals who were each made in the image of God and blessed by Him with unique gifts and roles. Simply changing this perspective makes it easier to love people.
- Stop judging. Whether they’re about the mom who lets her kids run wild through the library or the man slowing down the checkout line at the store because he’s distracted by his phone conversation, I sometimes struggle with judgmental thoughts. This, by itself, is an issue (Matthew 7:1-5), but it also poses a specific problem in the context of loving others. When I judge others, I’m doing so because I feel they are wrong about their approach to something. If I’m not careful, one thought leads to another and I somehow construe this to mean that they are unworthy of my love. Let’s face it: We’re all unworthy of God’s love, yet He gives it to us. Who am I to feel like I’m too good to love others? When I’m on alert for judgmental thoughts and extinguish them when they enter my mind, I’m able to stop the judging and avoid this thought pattern.
- Consider their motivations. In general, most of us have good reasons for doing the things we do. Of course, these motivations are “good” from our subjective viewpoints, so this doesn’t mean that our actions are always good and right. However, it does mean that I can be more understanding of people if I take a moment to put myself in their shoes. It’s easier to feel compassion and love when I have this understanding.
- Choose to love. As helpful as the previously mentioned strategies are, they focus on making it easier to love people instead of focusing on the choice I need to make in my heart. Just like in marriage, love is a choice. It shouldn’t matter how people act or if I feel love towards them; I must choose to love them. This isn’t particularly easy, but it’s critical.
It looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me!
What about you? Do you ever struggle to love the people around you? What things do you do to grow your love for people?
Though this post is somber, I do want to take this chance to wish you and your families a wonderful Christmas! May you each have meaningful fellowship with your loved ones as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
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