So, let’s just start at the top. Have you ever read through 1 Corinthians 13? If you have not, you should! It’s humbling for sure. It is a chapter devoted to love. I am not referring to the warm, romantic kind of love; I am referring to the nitty, gritty, above all else kind of love.
The kind of love that costs you something. The kind of love that is a choice.
Here are a few verses: (I’ll attach more at the end of my post, so keep on reading.)
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”-NLT
A few years ago, I reread through this chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 and I was really shaken by it, and I will explain why. I had thought that I was doing a fairly good job of loving those around me. Yes, I would mess up occasionally but overall, I would say that I was rockin’ it in the ‘loving others’ department. And then I read through this chapter with slow and thoughtful intention, and what I found I did not like.
I am quite selfish; there it is.
I rather like serving myself and having others serve me too. I would gladly serve others when it suited me, but I would quite like to be served all the time. I had a good, hard look at the ugly selfishness in my life. If I could dare to demand that of those I love around me, and not change how I was acting, well then quite honestly I was failing in the love department. And that was exactly what I was doing. I was demanding love but was not considering the cost of that demand, and I was definitely not thinking about how I could better love those in my life.
At that moment, I could see how I set the bar extremely high for everyone but myself. This new recognition felt like a kick to my stomach. I used to spar in Tae Kwon Do. Sparring is like a sort of practice fighting, a training practice for the real thing. Even though I was in full gear, I was kicked in the stomach by my much larger and male sparring partner, and I was completely winded. I remember not being able to breathe, and the sensation of panic, hoping that this is not how I die but rather that my lungs will fill with air soon so I could continue breathing. It was a very unpleasant experience. I did go on to win a silver medal in my category, but that story is for another day.
Perspective makes all the difference. Once you have a clear perspective on an issue, you can act and change. I love gaining new and clear perspective. It has the power to open your otherwise naïve eyes so that they can see the truth.
That day in my kitchen, as my toddlers napped, I saw myself in a new light. I was not great at loving others. Heck, I was not even good at loving others. I was downright terrible. I reread through 1 Corinthians 13 again, and I remember saying out loud as I was reading,
“I’m not patient, I am very jealous, I am proud, I can be very rude, I often demand my own way, I am often irritable, especially if I do not get what I want. I do keep records of when I am hurt by others. I am not always hopeful. Wow, I suck at love. I am downright terrible at loving others the way I am called to.”
At that moment I knew that there was no going back. I just decided that it was time to be real with myself. I did not like what I saw and I had to change. I had to be better at loving others, and I did not necessarily know how to change, but I committed to changing. And I would start with how I showed love to my husband and our daughters.
Fast forward several years, and that experience is still just as clear to me today. I do still struggle with selfishness, that desire to want to do things my way and when I want them. But I am working on this. Love costs you something. You have to choose to humble yourself, choose to pack up your pride and choose to serve. And sometimes you will be demanded to give and give and give with no one giving back to you. I do not have a magic formula. It will require effort, time, and practice. It will at times call you to apologize even when you did nothing wrong.
(Note: I am talking about healthy relationships here; if you are being abused or mistreated, I recommend you talk to a safe person and get as far away from that situation as possible.)
Love is never abusive or selfishly demanding, in fact, love is the polar opposite of that.
You can take it a step farther and pursue everyday leadership in your life, where you are. Go above and beyond the normal expectation to show love. Do not simply think of your own desires, but stop and take a moment to see those around you. Ask yourself, " How can I make a positive difference here?" Maybe you decide to show extra patience today. Maybe you decide that you will hold your tongue and not give your usual snide or sarcastic remark. Maybe today you decide to let go of "that thing" that you just keep holding on to, you know what it is.
Maybe you genuinely show appreciation for your coworkers, neighbors, family members and give them some genuine compliments. Maybe today you say sorry for how you acted. I know what areas I need to work on.
I challenge you for this whole month, that you set an intention. Make it small and attainable and every day before you browse your phone or read the news, that you make a point of showing love to someone in your family/circle. Rockin' that? Then go bigger. Maybe you don't yell this whole month. Maybe you choose to walk away to another room when anger is building and take five deep breaths before you say something that you cannot take back. Maybe you choose to make your spouse coffee every day for a month. Maybe you write a daily note to each of your children outlining areas where they shine and build them up. Maybe you have just the perfect idea! I would love to hear from you and how this turned out!
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
New Living Translation, Bible Gateway
Love Is the Greatest
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
13 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.[c] All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. NLT.
Ephesians 4:2 “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”