Years ago I was headed to a family gathering with my wife. Maybe you are like me and have occasional relational struggles with family. Those that are closest to us can hurt us the most! As I headed into this family time I was aware of a specific individual that drives me a little crazy and I certainly had not loved this person well in the past. I had recently been given Love Mantra #1: Love Others Well. Even though I wasn’t super enthusiastic about it, I had a plan. My mission for that weekend was to love this person well. When she needed something I would jump to serve her. When she said something that annoys me I would try to let it go. When she did something that annoyed me I would offer grace. All in all, I would go out of my way to be kind, helpful, thoughtful, curious and offer the best benefit-of-the-doubts I could. Yikes, this is a tall order.
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Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but I did my best. The amazing thing is that it worked. My intentional choices to love well had an impact on my perspective on that person. She didn’t change her behavior. She still annoyed me and even offended me. But I changed the negative narrative I had written in my head. Instead of self-preservation being the mission, I was invited into a much higher calling.
It is a strange thing that I have noticed in myself that when someone offends me, rubs me the wrong way or even just annoys me consistently, I begin building a case against them. Usually not something I would say out loud, but something deep inside, driven by an entitled need for justice. I am like a lawyer convincing an unseen jury that, “See! Once again their behavior, words and all around ridiculousness proves that I am right and they are wrong.” And in this way I can rationalize just about anything! It becomes a ball of negative energy that builds momentum as I push it downhill. It is hard to stop.
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Declaring that your mission is to love this person well is going directly against this negative momentum. It is almost like coming out of dream or a nightmare. Did I really want to be so angry and ugly towards that person? Did I really want to talk about them behind their backs? Did I really want to think the things I did about them? My answer, and I hope yours is too, no. No, that is not my true heart towards them. And all I needed was a reorientation to the mission. The mission is always to: Love Others Well.