My entire life, I have been known to be a bonafide people-pleaser. I bend over backwards for people and I put their preferences so far ahead of my own that sometimes I never bother even figuring out what my preference is in the first place, let alone whether it contradicts theirs or not. It hurts me to hurt people, offends me to offend people, and bothers me when I bother people. Sometimes, if I get too much time to myself, I can imagine all kinds of awful ways my day’s conversations might have been misunderstood or misconstrued as hurtful. Paranoid interpretations of my own statements crawl out of the back of my mind just to haunt and bug me. This is not a free sort of way to live and the attempt to free myself or make grounds from this personal norm has consumed my last year… which is also not a free sort of way to live.
I am stuck. Stuck between knowing something must change, and the actual transformation; like a butterfly still stretching and fanning to dry its wings.
But I am also stuck in another way. Though I know it has not been healthy for me to dwell on this egocentric fear that I am hurting or offending people, I still can’t shake the belief that there is value in caring about the feelings of another. This sounds obvious, but when you’re trying to live like Jesus, (at least for someone like me…) it becomes terribly difficult to decipher when it is appropriate to offend someone, as Jesus did with His radical interpretations of God’s idea of goodness on this earth, and when it is appropriate to care about how someone will feel.
I thought it would be as easy as asking myself: “what is loving?” because Jesus loved radically, even when he offended. But it gets more and more complicated to decipher even that.
What does it mean to be loving?
I feel fairly certain about so few things these days… but even so, here are some of those things…
1.) Jesus’ most clear message was love: unconditional love.
2.) For Jesus, sometimes loving meant hurting: showing disapproval, rebuking, correcting.
3.) I am not Jesus. Sometimes loving means listening for and finding Jesus in others: valuing their attempts to follow regardless of how it fits with my attempts to follow. It means considering a different way than my own.
4.) Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy and it does not boast.
Following Christ may hurt people, but not because there was a lack of love. If I hurt people on this journey to follow, may it be because they did not understand or because they don’t want to consider the lifestyle I’ve chosen. I pray that it is not however because I wasn’t loving: because I wasn’t patient, wasn’t kind, or because I envied or boasted.
Now…that is a huge challenge for me. I am impatient. I am mean. I envy. I boast. I do all of these things and it breaks my heart to accept that that’s true: but it is.
Maybe a good start to attempting to be loving, is attempting to minimize these habits in my life.