I wrote a post last week that was about the importance of being vulnerable in relationships and accepting love from the people in your life. When I receive love I feel inspired to love others the same way, so this week is part two and I’m talking about giving love and loving people well.
The more I recognize acts of grace and kindness the more inspired I become to be kind to others. On days when I’m tired, sad, frustrated, I’m inspired to be more gracious, patient and kind because I’m honoured when others do the same for me. Appreciating small acts of kindness can give you energy to pay it forward. I know this all probably sounds very elementary – but honestly, how often do you apply it your life?
Invisible Love: Making the Best Assumptions
I think of ‘invisible love’ as the actions that people might not see. For example, being discreetly generous, making generous assumptions about people, or being patient despite your own stress is what I might consider ‘invisible’ love. You’ll never hit your “nice quota” for the day and there is always room to try to be more patient, gracious, considerate and kind toward the people you encounter each day.
As a teenager I worked at a summer camp that had a sign on the wall by the kitchen that essentially said “Are you hungry? Tired? Grouchy? Go take care of your needs before you interact with people”. The sign was there because when we are hungry, over tired, etc. we aren’t our best (or most loving) selves. It’s like that snickers slogan, ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’. To love people well, we should try to look at this from the other side too, by recognizing it in others. For example, if your friend is grouchy there are a few ways you can react:
- Point out the person is in a bad mood (because they’ll love it)
- Recognize the cause of their behaviour might not have to do with you and try to make them feel better
- Ignore the cause of their behaviour and get upset or frustrated with them for being grumpy
Number 2 is the best option, because that’s offering grace and making a generous assumption about them. It can be hard to figure out why people are stressed or upset; people get hangry, frustrated, they have other internal things going on that you can’t see, or they are just having a bad day. Often times, we all just need a little understanding.
A few summers ago I went on a road-trip with friends to Quebec and a story I may never live down from that trip was when I started crying in a Montreal H&M. We’d been up driving from our town since 4am, I had a stomach ache from eating lunch too fast, and a revolving door hit my heel and it started to bleed. It was nonsense, but I started crying profusely. It was funny once I pulled myself together and realized I just needed to take a minute to sit and rest. We all experience moments when you need people to be patient with you. It’s a bonus when the people around you simply suggest we just sit on a bench and take a break without making you feel silly.
The moral of the story is, if you see someone upset, stressed, or grumpy, maybe from your perspective overreacting, take a step back and think about what’s going on with them. Don’t assume it’s about you, assume they need a little extra love today.
Visible Love: Showing Up
I think one of the best ways to love people is to just show up and be present for them. Just being there for someone, even if you don’t know what to say can mean a lot. Showing up can take many forms; it can be a listening ear, a hug, a shoulder to cry on, or moral support. Bob Goff’s book Love Does talks about the idea that love is an action, it goes out, says “I’m with you” and makes things happen. I couldn’t agree more. Even if you’re not sure how to support someone the first step is always to show up and let them know you are there for them. I’ve never called a friend looking for a person to talk things out with and been upset that they picked up the phone. As long as you’re willing to be there, that’s enough.
I read this blog the other day about the importance of “holding up your 50%” in a relationship, it’s a good reminder that we should be intentional about investing into people who invest in relationships with us and loving the people who love us. It can be easy to be wrapped up in your life and appreciate receiving love from people, but healthy friendships and relationships are give and take. You can’t take advantage of love and not give it back.
Some other ways to love people is by practicing inclusivity or being a source of encouragement. You can love people by inviting them to hangout and grab coffee, have a girls night or go to goat yoga with you (or whatever activities you’re into). Honestly, it never hurts to be inclusive. And encouraging people and telling them what they mean to you is a great way to remind them how much they mean to you and how you value them.
Enforce Boundaries that Allow You to Love Fiercely
To love people well you need to set boundaries. Brené Brown describes setting boundaries as outlining what behaviour is okay and what is not okay. It can be hard to set boundaries because we don’t want to disappoint people. She said it best when she said, rather than being resentful of people because of a lack of boundaries, she “would rather be loving and generous and be very straight forward about what is okay and whats not okay”. When thinking about the invisible love and the generous assumptions, ask yourself the question Brown asks in her book, “What boundaries need to be in place for me to make the most generous assumptions about people?”.
In Donald Miller’s Scary Close he writes about a conversation with his friend where his friend tells him “I’ve learned there are givers and takers in this life. I’ve slowly let the takers go and I’ve had it for the better…. God bless them, when they learn to play by the rules they are welcome back, but my heart it worth protecting”. That hit home for me. YES! My heart and your heart and your heart and your heart, and everybody’s hearts are worth protecting. Remembering that and setting healthy boundaries are important to allow yourself love people in the most genuine and wholehearted way.
Just Love Them
In my first post I wrote that I love to love people, and I really do. If I could find a full-time job where I encourage people and send them love and practice kindness I would accept it in an instant. The cool thing is that, we can actually all have that job. It’s not a paid position, but I think positive impact your actions make in the world is worth it.
I want to be like the sweet woman in a coffee shop who lends you a laptop charger when you forget yours, the stranger ahead of you in line who hears you say what cupcake you want and they purposely don’t buy it so you can have it, and the people who leave generous tips. On a bad day when you show up at your friend’s door saying “I know we haven’t been close lately”, and you feel like maybe you don’t deserve to ask for their support, and they say that doesn’t matter I’m so glad you came to me and hug you tight – that is the way I want to love others.
This week I’ll leave you with a passage from Ephesians 4:2 that I really like which says that when interacting with people to be humble, gentle and patient, “bearing with one another in love”. It reminds me of when people say “please bear with me” and I think we just need to have people bear with us and say its okay, I’ll be patient. Just imagine everyone you encounter is asking you to bear with them and needs that understanding and grace, because they probably do.