Have you ever seen the movie, Bruce Almighty? There is a scene where Bruce (Jim Carrey), who is “God” is trying to get Grace (Jennifer Aniston) to love him by sending his “God” powers her way, but it doesn’t work. Earlier in the movie he hurt her and she has quit loving him. Bruce asks her, “why won’t you love me?” and she says, “I did.”
Bruce had a problem, even as Bruce Almighty (God), he couldn’t make Grace love him. It was in his actions that Grace first fell in love with him and now in Bruce’s actions that she fell out of love with him. Later Bruce talks to Morgan Freeman (God) and asks him how do you make someone love you. “God” explains he has been working on the answer for years. The reality is, Even the God of the universe cannot force us to love Him, it is our choice!
Challenges to Loving Others
Two of the hardest parts about love is to love when you are not loved back and to love so much you are willing to allow consequences in someone’s life when you can stop them. People with a family member or their own history with drugs and alcohol may have experienced this. Sometimes you have to love them enough for them to hit “rock-bottom” so they may learn.
Many students at the Alpha Academy would want to leave and return to their old dangerous habits. For some this was alcohol or drugs, for others it was video games, pornography, or sheer laziness. In each case, I would have a deep conversation with them about their motives and try to open their eyes to the error in judgement.
One particular student, Joshua, decided to leave against our advice. He ran back to the world of drugs and alcohol to eventually hit his “rock bottom.” When he did, his eyes were finally opened and he entered a treatment center, finally got stable, has a job as a manager and is engaged to be married, and oh yeah, he is sober too. It may be hard, but sometimes loving someone is allowing the consequences to happen, no matter how bad it may hurt them or hurt you to watch it happen. They won’t forget the love you gave to them.
The other part is loving someone and not being loved in return, this is extremely challenging as well. It’s human nature to want your love to be reciprocated, but this doesn’t always happen. So what do we do? Keep loving them!
I experienced this first hand at Alpha Academy. There was a student named Phil, we didn’t get along, in fact, he put his fist through a window one day and I was standing on the other side. Our relationship was rough, to say the least. After a few months living together and some effort on my part, we began to sit and talk together weekly on Tuesdays. I called this our ten-minute Tuesday conversation. Eventually, Phil opened up to me and started to accept my love and trust me with his thoughts and feelings.
It took over eight months for us to get to this point, and in the middle of it all, is when he shoved his fist through the window. But with my persistence and his willingness to have the conversations and trust me, he finally began to accept my love. To this day, I am not sure if he ever genuinely loved me back, but I randomly ran into him several years ago and the first thing he did was run up and give me a hug.
“Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life.”
– Leo Buscaglia
So what does this all mean for you? These two stories illustrate that love requires action and discernment, they also show that love is messy! This messy-ness can be difficult to deal with, but always worth it.
As I said in an earlier post, I believe love is the chief of all the emotions and it determines how we react to our anger, discouragement, and fear. Additionally, joy is impossible without love because love serves as the root of our joy, making the joyful attitude of our hearts possible.
When the love we express is patient and kind, anger is slowed and controlled. When we express or receive love, discouragement changes to encouragement because love protects, brings hope, and perseveres through trial. Finally, perfect love casts out all fear making trust possible between us and God and toward one another.
So what practical steps can we take to love more and to love better. Here are my 10 suggestions on how to love more and to love better:
- Learn how to become more patient, spend time in situations where you are required to be patient. Waiting in lines, at a stoplight, work meetings, asking people to do things for you, become a better listener, etc.
- Find ways to be kind to others. Smile at strangers, say please and thank you, open the door for others, hug family and friends a bit longer than normal, compliment a friend or your spouse on something they did well, etc.
- Give away your time, abilities, and money. Find people who need these precious commodities in your life and freely give them away. This helps keep humble and demonstrates a self-less attitude.
- Forgive and forgive again and then forgive some more. Then turn around and ask for forgiveness.
- Find ways to say encouraging things about people, especially when they are not around, and learn to hold your tongue.
- Speak the truth about yourself to yourself and others.
- Extend trust to others, give them an opportunity to succeed or fail and not expect anything in return when they succeed or give consequences when they fail.
- Give someone a reason to hope.
- Show love by protecting others. Protect them physically. Protect them emotionally. Protect them spiritually.
- Accept Jesus’ love into your heart and spend time with Him. Then share your love of Jesus with others!
Your Love Challenge
Each of these examples are simple ways you can extend love to others. Now I challenge you in two ways with this list. Find people in your life you can extend this love to and start today, start now. Second, replace the words “others” and “people” in this list with the word yourself. Go ahead, read through the list and do this now.
How did that make you feel? Can you do that? Loving people is not easy and loving ourselves may be the most challenging of all. Take time to reflect on the list again. How can you live a more loving life?
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”
― Helen Keller
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