Why I Love

I will fully admit. –Since I love, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  Some may say it is foolish to love so hard, and I understand where they are coming from, but , from my understanding, that is the power of true love.  Love goes all out for someone.  As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:5-7 (KJV): [Love] beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (bold italics emphasis mine). Here is why I strive to love so hard:

1.Because of God’s love for me—God has been actively orchestrating my life since the beginning of time! Even when I wanted to give up on myself and my life because of the difficulties I have I had to endure in my life, I firmly believe God has never given up on me. He loved me even when I didn’t feel good enough for anyone and had a self-pity party.  He has showered me blessings way beyond my comprehension and my merit!  He has shown me care and compassion, even when I have forgotten His goodness and God Himself.  That is true love!  That is why I strive every day to love God, through loving others. Yes, I may fail at loving others at times, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get up and try again.  With God’s love, there is always hope for anyone, even me.

2. Because of my life’s purpose—One of my life’s purposes is to love others as God has loved me. I want to share this great love with others because I can believe true love can change the world for the better.  I found that when I want to give up on loving someone, I feel depressed and even suicidal at times! That is because if I refuse to love others, all other things that I do are fruitless and meaningless.  It even says that in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-4 (KJV), where charity equals love:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

3.Because it gives joy—I strive to love others because it not only gives me great joy, but because the joy in love and being loved is contagious! I find when I strive to love others the way God has loved me, it brings great joy to everyone involved. For instance, during the Christmas season/holidays at work, I made it a point to give every salaried member of management a Christmas card to let them know, in essence, that their hard work and dedication to our company does not go unnoticed.  All the managers seemed appreciative and joyful upon receiving the cards.  It also gave me joy to be able to make the managers feel loved and appreciated.  When I have the difficult task of loving someone that I’m either upset with or that I don’t particularly like, and I do, it’s like a burden is lifted off me.  However, when I do love these people, I don’t only feel better about myself, but I often feel like there is hope for restoration and healing in our relationships.

4. Because it is better than the alternative.—Today, as I write this, I am deeply troubled and saddened by the hatred and anger in this world, as I hear of another mass shooting in my country. However, today is also Valentine’s Day, a day that we are all supposed to love and care for each other.  Over and over again, hatred always creates destruction and dissension.  As hard as it is to love certain people, we must be diligent in at least attempting to be kind and love others.  Don’t rely on feelings alone to love someone; otherwise, we may fall woefully short.  However, love because your very life and your very legacy depend on it!

This is why I strive to love others every day. Yes, there are times when I fall woefully short of where I should be in loving others, but even in times when we fall short; we must not give up on love.  When we give up on love, we lose our lives, both spiritually and emotionally.  However, when we do love, we can turn the world upside down for its good and preservation.

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The Greatest Revenge: Loving Your Enemy

What do you think about when you picture your enemy or enemies? It could be someone that hurt you deeply, or it could be someone that, for some reason, you just despise.  It could be someone that hurt your loved ones or friends.  What if I told you that you could get revenge on them legally, but it would not be the “revenge” you expect or want?  What if I told you to love them?

I’ve been reading the book, “Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian missionary who was martyred during the World War II era.  He says in the aforementioned book, “The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him.” (Bonhoeffer, 147).  Or her.  This is why I found that this is true, and why I consider loving our enemies the greatest ‘revenge’ ever:

  1. Because of the Burning Coal Principle. –What I call, the Burning Coal principle, is derived from the Bible in Romans 12:20-21, where it says, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (KJV-emphasis mine).” The Burning Coal Principle is where one consistently strives to love his or her enemy by serving or doing kind acts on their behalf.  It shows the greatest kind of love, agape love, which promotes their well-being. This is the greatest “revenge” because when one loves his or her enemies like this, it does one of two things to the enemies.
    • These people will change their attitude and/or behavior towards you and repent of their evil towards you. They will appreciate that you are trying to be merciful to them despite their mistreatment of you. They will know that you love them and are not trying to take worldly revenge on them, but will get a glimpse of divine love from you.
    • If these people (enemies) do not change their ways and continue abusing and inflicting heartache on the person loving them , it will place a greater judgment on them. I believe God will punish these people for eternity if they don’t repent. Even on earth, they will most likely still suffer repercussions for their evil acts because if they see they are returning your good by being evil instead of good, people will most likely lose respect for them until they repent and show kindness to you.  They may also be disciplined by authority accordingly, if their offense is serious enough to warrant that.

2 )Because loving your enemy changes you.—Loving your enemy changes you, I believe, for the better. It takes a very strong and courageous person to be able to even consider loving an enemy. But when you do, it changes your attitude not only towards them, but also towards the whole world. When you become strong enough to even consider loving your enemy, you will discover that you have a more positive image of your enemy. No longer will he or she be just this evil monster or witch-like persona you had in your mind, but a hurting, needy soul will emerge in its place. You will be more motivated to serve them because compassion and love takes over the dark image you have of your enemy. It may take some time for this more positive image to emerge, so don’t rush things, but take one step at a time, if you want to really love your enemy, as Jesus did, when he was dying on the cross.

At first, loving your enemy may feel like you are “faking nice” to them, but as time passes, you will be more able to serve them with a genuine heart of love and compassion. Furthermore, loving your enemy forces you to look outside just yourself and your own physical and emotional needs and gives you a servant’s heart.  In general, you will love more and judge others less.  You will be more tolerant of others’ shortcomings, including those you love, but also your enemies’, as you strive to understand all people better and get rid of the entitlement mentality—which holds on to your rights and doesn’t really consider others’.

3.) Finally, loving your enemy changes the world around you.

a.)Loving your enemy can restore broken relationships.—For instance, off and on, I  had several people at work whom I would consider “enemies”, or at least, I was not on friendly terms with them.  However, when my pastor (and, frankly, God) inspired me to put the Burning Coal Principle to practice, what I found was that the relationships were restored. In some cases, God restored it to the point where I had an even better relationship than with them before I they were my “enemies” !

b ) Loving your enemy can bridge divides—In  Rwanda, when the Hutus and the Tutsis hated each other. The Hutu majority were trained to hate and kill Tutsis. Entire Tutsi families were murdered in this genocide. Some Tutsis wanted revenge, but some of them actually forgave the Hutus and eventually helped end the genocide-war.

c) Loving your enemy shows genuine love.—Loving your enemy shows genuine love because it is love that is not controlled by emotion or favor. It actually goes the distance and is supernatural. We do not naturally want to even consider loving our enemies because it goes our mentality for justice and our notion of fairness. However, when we strive to love our enemies, I find that we don’t focus on that as much. Instead we focus on not just our enemy’s good, but also the good of the world around us.

 

Loving your enemy is something that is very difficult to do. We (me included) fail at this, time and time again. But if we view our enemies as hurting and broken people, instead of the devil incarnate or just an evil menace, maybe we can change not only them, but the whole world

On Conquering Hate

All around me, I see and hear people arguing and fighting with each other. We even hear of it among our own government (if you live in the U.S, though it does happen in other countries too)! People’s souls, around us, are being wounded and degraded at an alarming rate.  It’s everywhere—the curse of hatred.

Some people have given up the fight against hatred. They aren’t used to anything different.  They have either succumbed to it themselves, or have given up trying to change the world for the better. I am telling you, though, that one day when everything is made right again with this world, hate will be defeated and conquered. Love will rise again!

In the meantime, we must not give up fighting against all forms of hatred, big and small. The change starts with us, in our own souls and our own lives. Here is what I learned about conquering hatred:

  1. Aim for kindness.—Someone once said, “Be kind. Everyone around you is fighting a harder battle.” How true that often is. We sometimes don’t even know what our own family members are thinking or feeling!  How much less do we know about the inner lives of our friends and acquaintances, and the people in our community that serve us?  This is why we should aim for kindness always.  Sometimes, a person may be in a bad mood and (wrongly) take it out on us because he or she may not know another, more appropriate way of expressing how they feel, but we still must not hurt them back, though, we often do. We can make a greater, more positive difference if we showed compassion to our fellow human beings even when they aren’t treating us as we think they should.

We can aim for kindness in these two ways:

  • We can be kind in our attitudes and words: In Proverbs 23: 7, of the Bible, it says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” which means that you are what you think.  So, when we strive to think kind thoughts about others, we will naturally want what is best for them and be encouraging to them by affirming their worth and their good qualities.  However, if we have negative, hateful thoughts about others, our words and actions will also indicate that.  We also can be kind in our attitudes when it is more difficult to do so.  For instance, if you have to do what you think is a “thankless” task at work, instead of grumbling and complaining to others about the job you have to do, you can strive to do it with heart and with joy, knowing that you are serving for a higher purpose.
  • We can be kind in our actions: In my job (retail), ways I aim for kindness are, for example, when a customer is carrying a lot of things in their hands, I always offer to get them a shopping cart. This way they don’t have to carry everything in their hands and have to put it somewhere, and have the hassle of then getting a cart for themselves. I also strive to go the extra mile to look for something for a customer, so they can find what they need for their lives.  Sometimes, I help the custodians clean a messy area in the break room, not so I get recognized, but so the custodians do not have to be overwhelmed and burdened by so much work. I also do it as a way to thank them for the job they do for us.  I also strive to smile and maintain a joyful attitude.  Outside work, one may be kind in our actions by visiting a sick friend or neighbor in the hospital, feeding the homeless, or even helping a family member with a tough task before they even ask us to do said thing.

2. Forgive others quickly.—When someone hurts you, I would recommend not harboring bitterness and/or anger towards that person for more than a week because after that this negative spirit starts poisoning your soul and those around you. When I didn’t follow this directive in the past, I found that a negative and jaded spirit did start to form inside me. Not only that, but this anger and bitterness stunted my spiritual growth and kept me from growing closer to God and becoming the person He (and I) wanted me to be.  See Cultivating Peace After Conflict post for more information on resolving conflicts quickly and peaceably.

 

Why do more people not resolve their bitterness more quickly? I think it has to do with our misconceptions about what forgiveness really means. Here is what I learned about what forgiveness is and isn’t:

  • Forgiveness is not excusing the offender’s actions.
  • Forgiveness does not require amnesia of what had happened to you.
  • Forgiveness does not require reunion.
  • Forgiveness is letting God deal with the justice, and trusting Him to deal with the offender, rather than you being the judge and jury.
  • Forgiveness is ridding yourself of your hate, bitterness, resentment and anger towards the offender for your sake, so you can be at peace.
  • Forgiveness should be done also for your sake, not just the offender’s.

3. Stay away from all forms of hate.—Another thing we can do to conquer hatred in our lives, is to make sure we are not influenced to hate from outside sources, whether it be media, other people, or in other ways.

 

First of all, I would recommend keeping positive company. This means limiting your time with people who are negative influences on you or who influence you to hate other people.  Also, limit contact with people who constantly cut you or others down.  Instead, spend time with people who love others and who are a joyful and positive influence on your life.

 

Second of all, I would not go to websites, or read literature, listen to music, or watch anything promoting the hatred or the devaluation of other people.  For instance, it is one thing to read hateful literature because you are required to for a research project, but do not willingly read hateful literature for your own entertainment or curiosity.  Even if you are required to read something controversial or hateful  for a school project, be careful you are not being influenced by any hateful ideas or beliefs that the author may have.

 

Lastly, when you see people hate each other or speak hateful or malicious words to another, lovingly, but firmly, call them out on it. Counter their hateful words, but do not get sucked into hating them yourself!

 

If we all (me included) followed these three main directives in conquering hate in our lives, I believe we would be much better as a society.  As Ghandi famously said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Let’s be that change today, and love others lavishly and wholeheartedly!

 

Cultivating Peace After Conflict

We all want it in life. Some people may even crave it so much they just want to rest and get some zzzs.  Besides joy and love, it is a given that most, if not, all people want peace in their lives.  However, there are obstacles and conflicts that we often face in life, many of them with other people. Some of us may have even had long-standing conflicts with a person or persons that have caused us considerable stress in our lives. These conflicts may have led to a lack of peace in our lives.  This has certainly been the case in my past.  However, I have learned these following things about how to cultivate peace after having a conflict with someone:

Things One Should Never Do in Cultivating Peace After a Conflict:

  1. Make excuses and/or fake apologies.—A fake apology is a half-hearted attempt to deny or ignore your part in the conflict by “apologizing” using the words BUT and/or IF in it. Examples of this would be: a.) I know I upset you, but you are too sensitive. b) I am sorry if I hurt your feelings.  The first fake “apology” negates the apology by blaming the conflict on the other party.  The second fake “apology” does not acknowledge your part in the conflict at all.  Any so-called apology that blames the other person and, thus, does not own our part in the conflict, is made half-heartedly, or is done solely because someone told us we had to apologize (i.e  when parents force their children to apologize to each other when they have no desire), is a fake apology.
  2. Pretend everything is OK when it is NOT. –Another thing we should not do when desiring peace after a conflict is to go on pretending nothing happened. This often occurs when a party or parties do not want to properly deal with the conflict. For example, if you offended me and I am hurt, but the next day you act nice and loving to me again, as if the disagreement never happened. Moreover, you don’t apologize or even offer to make amends with me first. This never works, especially in major conflicts, because it invalidates the hurt feelings of the injured party or parties. It also stalls necessary changes and amends that will need to be made for true peace because the issues are never properly addressed.  This tactic is often used by abusers to maintain a sense of bait and control towards their victims, though certainly not all people who use this technique are abusers.
  3. Still have anger and bitterness in your heart.—When you want to cultivate peace after being in a conflict with someone, you should make sure you don’t have any bitterness or anger still in your heart. I believe forgiveness or at least a sense of “letting it go” is vital to cultivate true peace with someone you had a conflict with in the past. If you still have anger and bitterness in your heart, I would advise that you deal with those heart issues first, before trying to reconcile and/or forgive the person or persons involved in your conflict. When I had tried to “make up” with someone when I still held anger and resentment towards them in my heart, things would often get worse because these people would see through my façade and just dismiss me, making me even angrier than I was to begin with.  Make sure you are completely at peace with the conflict and the person that caused it before trying to make peace.

Things One Should Do To Cultivate Peace After a Conflict:

  1. Confess your part of the problem.—We should humbly confess our part of the problem even if we are not totally at fault. This does not mean “confessing” things that are not your fault, as in the case of abuse. However, this does mean confessing any negative attitudes, words, or behaviors, which you did out of your own will that contributed to the problem. This even means confessing our past anger and bitterness towards someone, if it had gotten to the point where we couldn’t even think of said person in any sort of positive way!
  2. Find ways to repair the damage you caused and/or solve the problem.—After a conflict with someone, we should strive to find ways to repair the damage we caused by making any necessary restitution to him or her. If they caused the conflict or you and they both caused the conflict equally, you should work with the other person to find a solution to the conflict that will benefit both people. One or both parties may need to compromise, meaning to give up some of their desires to reach a desired peaceful conclusion to the conflict.  Do what is right not only for your sake, but for the others involved in the conflict as well.
  3. Make right with the other party or parties in the conflict before the sun goes down, if at all possible. –This principle is derived from Ephesians 4:26, which basically says to “not let the sun go down upon your wrath.” (KJV) This means you don’t want to wait more than one day to resolve a conflict.—You should try to resolve conflict as soon as possible. This way, seeds of anger and bitterness cannot form.  When we wait more than several days to deal with conflict, the tension lingers and often intensifies into deep-seated anger and bitterness, which I have found to be harmful to, not only our spiritual and emotional health, but often to our physical health as well. Prolonged anger and bitterness poison both body and soul.  Don’t risk it. Strive to resolve issues with others today.
  4. Forgive the other party for their part in the conflict.—In order to forgive, we need to know what forgiveness is. For more detailed information on forgiveness, please read this post. Forgiveness is letting go of anger and bitterness in one’s soul and trusting the ultimate Judge for justice.  We should forgive the other party for both past and present hurts in order to be at peace with them and ourselves.  Forgiveness requires humility and selflessness, but will release a weight of bitterness and anger that was on you and will ultimately allow healing for all parties involved.

These are the things I learned about cultivating peace after a conflict.  If we consistently applied these principles, I believe that there would be more peace our world.  May we strive to be instruments of reconciliation and peace in an increasingly stressful and anxiety-laden world.