Lately, I’ve been asking myself how I can be more loving toward certain people in my life. It seems there is always that one friend, that one relative, that one person in my life that I just cannot get along with. Tonight, some words from the past washed over me that I needed to be reminded of…
(originally published 8/14/2011)
Something interesting has happened recently between myself and a long-distance friend of mine. Actually, she’s never really been a “friend,” more of an acquaintance, because… well, to be honest… she has always irritated me. It has always seemed to me (and I could be completely off-base and misjudging her, but this is always how I’ve perceived things…) that she wants to be at the center of attention wherever she goes, wants everyone to look up to her, always has a bigger, better story to tell, etc.
But lately, we’re becoming better friends and those seeming tendencies aren’t bothering me anymore. It all started when I decided that I was going to reach out to her and try to build a better friendship with her. Interestingly, God led me to give her exactly what she wanted – admiration. I started calling to ask for her advice, praising her for the things she had accomplished, giving her positive feedback on the things she’d been doing, etc. And somehow through all of that, I discovered that I really LIKED her and that she had a lot of wonderful knowledge to share. We’ve been talking more in the past few weeks than we ever have and I can’t remember the last time she irritated me! Tonight, I was pondering these changes and asking God what caused them, when He spoke powerfully to my heart: “It’s because you’re loving her.”
That absolutely floored me. Here was this person, engaging in what I would consider to be a sinful desire to be admired and well thought of by others, and God led me to GIVE her the very thing she was (wrongly, in my opinion) searching after. And in doing so, I was loving her.
Earlier today I had a conversation with another friend who was having a difficult time because many of her friends have been accusing her of engaging in sinful behavior in an area that God has actually called her into. And I contrast these two approaches to sin.
While I certainly believe there are times when we should “speak the truth in love” and gently bring it up when we see a brother or sister engaging in sin, in this particular case God didn’t want me to point out my perception of my friend’s wrongs to her – He wanted me to fulfill a need she was trying to meet and in doing so I was showing her love. And in showing her love, I was no longer feeling unloving toward her.
Sometimes love means seeing someone else’s mess and meeting them exactly where they are. Sometimes it means encouraging them through their troubles, instead of trying to make them see the error of their ways. And I am learning that loving people this way can actually foster the very change we were seeking in the first place.
Because sometimes, we’ll discover it was us who needed to change all along.