I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking in the new year. I am reading “The 7 habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey and I am taking my time. I like to digest my reading and internalize it as I would a good meal. In order for you to follow me on the remainder of this blog post, I must first provide you the passage that caused me to sit back and carefully evaluate my behaviors toward those that I care for.
In his section on Principles of Personal Vision, Covey writes:
At one seminar where I was speaking on the concept of proactivity, a man came up and said, “Stephen, I like what you’re saying. But every situation is different. Look at my marriage. I’m realy worried. My wife and I just don’t have the same feelings for each other we used to have. I guess I just don’t love her anymore and she doesn’t love me. What can I do?”
“The feeling isn’t there anymore?” I asked.
“That’s right,” he reaffirmed. “And we have three children we’re really concerned about. What do you suggest?”
“Love her,” I replied.
“I told you, the feeling just isn’t there anymore.”
“You don’t understand. The feeling of love just isn’t there.”
“Then love her. If the feeling isn’t there, that’s a good reason to love her.”
“But how do you love when you don’t have love?”
“My friend, love is a verb. Love –the feeling–is a fruit of love, the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?”
Okay. Let it marinate.
Now, when I reflect on this, it says to me: If you want love, be more loving, if you want respect be more respectful…a sentiment summarized beautifully in Matthew 7:12 (do unto others…). There is nothing profound in this statement, and yet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. People are not mind readers, nor do they absorb things by osmosis. If I want someone to know that I love them, I love them. The verb. If I am thinking about someone, I tell them. When I love, I do not know how to do this any other way but to let it ooze out of every pore. I love not because people always deserve it, but because I care so much for who they are and their well being, that I want them to succeed. Because when they glow, I shine, and when they fall, I stumble, because I care.
I remember the first time I knew that I was head over heels in love. I arrived home from school on Christmas break of 1998 and walked into the house to greet my family. Sitting on the couch was my older sister, holding this tiny little person swaddled in soft pink blankets with only her cherubic brown face showing, well, that and a massive tumble of dark curls. She was so quiet and in her slumber, she appeared to me to be the closest thing to heaven on earth. The moment I saw my niece I knew I would do any and EVERYthing in my power to keep her safe and happy no matter what it cost me. I was a goner. My heart was so full of love that I thought it might burst. She could hate me, and I would love her because I had no choice. So this was love. That is when I truly understood. My parents would love me no matter how mean, disrespectful, forgetful, ungrateful, selfish, or imperfect…they would love me in SPITE of my flaws.
I was praying this morning, and I am so thankful for every single one of my friends and all of their quirks, for my family and it’s dysfunction, because they love every little piece of me, even when I do not; and so I must love them the way God loves me…flaws and all.