This post was co-written with Todd Nesloney. You can find his blog here.
The Way It May Seem
It seems these days that you can’t turn on the tv, radio, or surf the web without bearing witness to another atrocity that has happened around the world. Sometimes those events are far away and easy to disconnect from, yet sometimes they happen right in our backyard.
As more and more of these painful events have taken place, something began to happen in both of our own hearts and minds. While talking on Voxer one afternoon, we realized how heavy recent events had been weighing on our hearts. But even more so, the thought of love kept coming to mind. Loving unconditionally appears reckless to a watching world.
The Way It Really Is
As men of faith, we both know the power that exists in loving unconditionally. We’ve both seen our own lives changed when we ourselves felt the unconditional love and forgiveness of Christ. But even more so, we’re reminded of our charge to love others. No matter how hard it may seem.
Loving without limits can be difficult to wrap our minds around. We become conditioned to see people as transactions rather than relationships. Our exchanges with others can be reduced to position or to the role that they serve in our lives rather than the most basic connection: the value of them as a person. When we fail to see the humanity and the needs of others we in a sense lose our own humanity and our way.
Our Belief About Others
What we believe about others will in turn determine our behaviors towards them. Others around us are not looking for a piece, a part, or only half of who we can be when it comes to believing the best about others. They’re looking to see that we want to bring out the best one hundred percent of the time, loving without limits, filled with the desire to see that all people are given opportunities to surpass expectations. No one likes a half-hearted commitment, so our commitment to love people must be 100%.
At the same time, deep-seated in all of us is what we believe about ourselves. And that too affects how we interact with others. Many times we see ourselves as unlovable, easily abandoned, or not worthy. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “we are what we believe we are.” Because of that belief about ourselves, we don’t give others all of ourselves. We give them pieces of who we are. We believe that if we give too much they’ll hurt us or use it against us.
Loving without limits is allowing our arms to be wide open to embrace a radical commitment to live beyond ourselves. We must always ask, ‘what does love require of me?’
A radical commitment to…
One thing that this world can never have enough of is compassion. Compassion doesn’t come from a place of weak mindedness. It actually comes from a place of incredible strength. When you stop to help the least of these you are sharing your strength. Being compassionate allows you to be vulnerable, a trait we need more of in our culture, not less.
We tend to overcomplicate what compassion looks like, reserving those moments for someone in times of loss or severe trial. However, what if we displayed this as servant leaders daily. Imagine if we taught this in our classrooms. We must model through our own words and actions for others what this looks like. Being generous with authentic words of praise and affirmation to those around us affirms others in ways they often will not ever communicate. For example, we have witnessed how students or teachers will hold onto that simple post it note we wrote. Why? Because you went beyond yourself and took the time to recognize their value.
Forgiveness. Probably the most difficult of all. So often in society today we’re taught an eye for an eye. When someone hurts you, you’re supposed to hurt them back. Make them feel your pain.
If there’s anything we’ve learned it’s the freeing power of forgiveness. Because often what you find is that when you forgive someone it frees you more than it does that other person.
We don’t need to hold onto hurt. To hold onto hate. When we chose not to forgive we’re only making the issue worse. One of our favorite quotes is that “hurting people, hurt others.”
Forgiveness isn’t easy. And honestly, we don’t believe it really comes naturally. But it’s something that is so necessary. We have to be the one to step up and say, I forgive you. And to remember that when you forgive it’s not an acknowledgment that what the other person did was ok. It’s a realization that what they did to you will have no hold over you. That you’re in control of how you feel and what you believe about yourself.
Hope is not based on wishful thinking but in the power of that which is not yet becoming reality through intentional belief and action. Hope is the power to drive out fear. When we give into fear we allow anxiety and allow the darkness to cast a shadow in place of light.
All we need is just the slightest sliver of hope. Belief that things can and will get better. Darkness cannot hide where there is light. Together, we can be the light in a world that often feels so overrun by darkness.
As we both came together to write this post, we wanted it to be a beacon of light. A reminder that as people we can do so much good in this world. And though it may seem that things are dark or that darkness is prevailing, we can still be the light.
Our hope is to strike the match, that leads to a flame, the ends in a full-on raging fire. To push forward with unconditional love. To show compassion in every situation. To forgive quickly, even when we don’t think we can. And most of all to hold onto hope.
Just as Margaret Mead says, “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. When indeed, it’s the only one that ever has.”
#Loverecklessly -Todd and Jeff