It’s hard to love. It’s easier to not care or make the effort a lot of the times. Truly loving others takes complete sacrifice of self. How much do we sacrifice ourselves to love another? It takes trust and vulnerability.
One of the Greek words for love is agape: sacrificial, unconditional love for others. This is the type of love I am writing about. Agape means loving all people no matter if they are your family, friends, strangers, or even your enemies. Sometimes it’s difficult to even love family members or extended family, but we make an effort to keep the peace and a connection.
There are three words I believe are the most vital to me in struggling to become a loving human being: (1) sacrifice, (2) generosity, and (3) empathy. These three words define, for me, what love is. Therefore, in reality, I do not believe I am at that stage of agape in my life. Sometimes I feel I am light years behind.
There are certain road blocks on our journey in life that cause a breach in connecting with others and growing in this love that is perfectly shown through the Holy Trinity:
- Judging Others. I found this causes me to become prideful and distant from the person I am judging, and my heart becomes less soft and less warm. This is the reason why, in Christianity, judging others is considered a sin. It blocks you from loving the person which results in missing the mark of what we are to be — loving God and our neighbor.
- Envy and jealousy. This causes a strong dislike for another human being whether a close relation or a complete stranger. It’s sinful because it brings forth enmity in our hearts for others.
- Disliking others because they’re not like you. We all like people who are like us, but I think it’s true we struggle to like others who aren’t like us, who have different ideals, beliefs, tastes, interests, etc. This is seen most dramatically in the realm of politics. People become heated over certain political topics, and they attach themselves to one of the political parties and seem to sign a type of oath in blood that they cannot detour from the party line, or they are considered disloyal and traitors to their party. The political arena requires teams to belong to, like in sports or college fraternities. If you dare to agree with another team member’s opinion or the team’s perspective on an issue, you have soiled your position on your team. This common, “us versus them” activity causes us to require an enemy, even if there aren’t really any. We feel good being a member of whatever group we’ve joined, and when outside groups insult a member in our group, we naturally vehemently defend them. But what happens to the heart? Where in this sports game, party bickering does love fit in?
- Hating people who commit awful, murderous acts. I’m not saying we should excuse the heinous acts. The act is horrible no matter the circumstance. But when I read the comments in a news story trending on social media about someone killing someone else, such as “I hope she/he rots in hell,” “blow him/her away,” it’s really disturbing and sad, and frankly, inhuman. It is difficult and sometimes painful to soften our hearts towards murderers, but we can pray for them that God softens their hearts and that they repent and feel remorse for what they’ve done. We don’t have to like these people, but we can love them as fellow human beings but still hate the act. What I do in these cases is just what I said in the latter sentence. I pray for them, and I also try to remember all humans are made in God’s Image. We live in a broken world, and we’re all broken, spiritually ill, and need healing. I admire those who have shown love and forgiveness to the people who committed deadly crimes in tragic events, such as the Amish families did when a troubled man holding a decades long grudge burst into an Amish school house and shot dead several little girls, or when the African American members of a Charleston, South Carolina church were randomly shot dead by an unstable white man. They exhibited the capacity to forgive the men who had brutally killed their loved ones.
All of us have missed the mark. I know I’ve hit every one of those road blocks on my life’s travels. How do we change our hearts from cold, dark, hardened rocks to softened, warm, loving hearts? I believe I work on myself in loving others by trying earnestly to not go the path of those road blocks on my journey on earth, and in doing so, I can become a true human being the way God originally created me to be. It takes training one’s mind in diligently being mindful of our thoughts to not allow the judging, hate, and envy to prop up a tent in our heads and settle there. But we should think of good things about the person instead of judging what they said or did. Maybe skip comments in news articles and not get caught up in too much of the news and political stories, which invite constant judging and loathing of others.
When moments of love enter your heart, you feel good. You feel joy. Nothing quite compares. Through God’s help, love, and mercy, I pray to be a loving, sacrificial, empathetic, and generous person…to be fully human.