How To Love Others When You Don’t Feel Like It
My fourth grader attended a new school this year. For her, it’s been as fun as it has been difficult. Especially when it comes to making friends.
One Monday, I learned she had a new “bff,” but by Wednesday, she was now a “frien-enemy” (my nine-year-old’s words). We got to talking about how up and down friendships can be, especially when those friends aren’t nice to you. And in the end, I encouraged her to give her friends what she wants to get.
Do you want to be treated kindly? Show kindness first. Want to be invited over for a playdate? Invite them over first.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized giving what we want to get applies to more than friendships.
What do we want in this season of isolation brought on by COVID? What are we hoping to receive from others? What might it look like to give to others what we, ourselves, want?
Below is a list of three things that we all want. And a list of three things we can all give to others. (Spoiler alert: they’re the same.)
What we want.
1. We want certainty.
There is obviously a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, thanks to COVID. And it’s compounded by the mixed cultural messages coming at us from all sides.
A vaccine exists, but we’re not sure when and where we’ll get it. We have (or don’t have) jobs right now but don’t know if they’ll survive long term. We still don’t even know whether the worst of the pandemic is over yet.
When we look at the stress in our lives, we can’t help believing that a bit more certainty would make it all better.
2. We want control.
We want our lives back. We want to choose what to do without considering COVID-restrictions. The pandemic has robbed us of a lot of our former control, and we’d like it back asap.
3. We want community.
Whether we know it or not, we were made to be in community with others. And the forced isolation is making many of us realize this for the first time. But now, when we want and need it most, community can’t be what we want it to be.
It’s not wrong to want these things. God knows what we want. And he actually invites us to ask for them (Matthew 7:7-8).
But, we also don’t have to wait around to receive what we want. We can get things going by giving them first.
1 John 4:19 says, “We love because God first loved us.” God didn’t wait around to be loved before he showed love. Instead, Jesus entered into the story that he authored so that we might know the love of God too.
And the beauty of this story is that we get to participate with Jesus. We get to help others experience the love of God by extending love to them.
Giving what you want to get.
1. Give certainty to others.
- Ask others how they are doing and empathize with them.
- Sit and be present with them, in person or virtually.
- Communicate regularly… maybe even bump it up a level right now as a way of serving people.
- Keep commitments (a.k.a. don’t be flaky). If you say you’ll call someone tomorrow at 10 am, then call them at 10 am.
- Let people know how you feel about them. Of course, you love your kids, your spouse, your family, your friends. But how often do you tell them so?
All these little sources of stability can add up to make a big difference for people feeling overwhelmed by uncertainty.
2. Give control to others.
- Give people options. Ask them when they’d like to meet up. Or let them choose the place or activity.
- Help others see what they can control in their lives rather than commiserating with them about their lost autonomy. Misery loves company, but fight to be encouraging!
- Encourage others to add rhythms and structures to their days. Consider sharing what works for you or recommend a good book.
3. Give them community.
- Just be with others. Offer them your warm, unhurried presence. This might mean creating more room in your own schedule in order to offer that time to a friend.
- Get creative with virtual options. As much as we’re all zoom-fatigued, it’s still worth connecting online if that’s the best option! Have a virtual game night with friends who live in another city. Or enjoy a meal together with family you haven’t seen recently.
- If you’re totally over virtual life, buy a neighbor or friend coffee and meet outside.
Disruptions are annoying, frustrating, and even painful. But they can also be opportunities to focus on what is most important. Giving what we want to get is a small but significant way to take your eyes off yourself and start loving God and others more.
Are you ever impatient? It is hard to give to others when our own plans are disrupted. Listen to this sermon from Keith Simon to hear how to show patience and love to others in your life.