Love your neighbor as you love yourself. It sounds easy enough, but if you’ve lived for more than a minute, you know this can be a challenge. Why? Well…there are a lot of reasons. The reality is everyone is different. Arthur Forman, a school master in the late 19th century, said, “Not everyone thinks the way you think, knows the things you know, believes the things you believe, nor acts the way you would act.” Keeping our differences in mind, we all have to learn how to make the best of our situations. So, how do we approach others in a way that honors God and allows us to have loving, healthy relationships? Here are two thoughts to keep in mind.
1. Focus on what you can control.
People are who they are, and you can’t change them. No amount of pointing out their flaws, suggesting improvements, or drawing diagrams for how you want them to be is going to cause a life change. Only they control their own attitude, behaviors, language, or even body odor. But, here’s what you can control–yourself. You can control how you view and react to the people around you. Only you can control you. So, adjust your thoughts and prayers to reflect the change you can control.
Do you need to see a certain person the way God does? Do you need insight into the difficult encounters you have with them? Is there anything you can do to change how you act/react to this person? Remember, God has seen fit to allow them into your circle of life for a reason. So trusting Him and focusing on what you can control is a great way to love those around you.
2. Choose peace every time.
When you feel your blood pressure rising, take a deep breath and pause for a moment. You’ll discover that you can approach your situation with a new perspective. When you decide you’re not going to react with emotion but instead try to control yourself, you’ll find things aren’t as bad as you think. That’s when you can choose to respond with peace and the love others need.
The main goal may not be to become best friends with the person who you’re called to love, but you can allow your response to change the relationship to one that honors God. He wants you to love them the way you love yourself (see Matthew 22:39). If you respect yourself, then you can respect them. If you seek what is best for yourself, then you most certainly can seek what is best for them. When you are patient with yourself, then you can be patient with them. Simply ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated?” Then comes the hard part–once you identify how you want to be treated, go and treat others the same way.
No matter what situation we’re in and no matter how difficult the people and situations around us may be, we are still called to love God and love others. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and allow the Holy Spirit to do the heart work within us. That’s when we will truly see love in full effect.