loving others: the human way and the better way
Growing up, there always seemed to be one or two girls in school who the others didn’t like. It could have been the way she dressed or the things she said, or maybe it was the sense others got from her, that her insecurities were showing too much. They would roll their eyes or give short answers when she tried to talk, discouraging the conversation from continuing. It’s like they didn’t know how to tell her they felt she was being overbearing, so they displayed it on their faces. These not so subtle gestures of disapproval towards her behavior, they perhaps hoped would change her behavior.
Ironically, the sentiment “confidence is attractive” tends to be shaming, because it draws a line between those who are, and those who aren’t. It deems one group in, the other out. But it seems to me the last thing a person with a lack of confidence needs, is to feel shamed for something they’re likely already all too aware of. From the times I’ve been there personally, I know the only effective antidote is unconditional love and acceptance.
I wish I could say I always stood up for that girl, or that I’ve never before displayed my disapproval in an attempt to change someone in the way the other girls did, but unfortunately I think this type of interaction is all too human.
When someone is annoying us or carrying on about a topic we don’t care to talk about, we use our body language to cut the conversation short. When someone is making choices or holding opinions we disagree with, we use indignant eyes to communicate what might be too “polite” to say. When someone has hurt us we give them the silent treatment, because maybe removing our presence will punish them into repentance.
The human way is to treat love like an exchange. When we don’t like the way someone is behaving, the temptation is to stick up our noses and withhold love and approval until they change. Only thing is, withholding love and approval won’t provoke change, it will likely make whatever the problem is worse.
In every human interaction, there are always two conversations going on. The first is content level, and it’s the topic being talked about—the words falling from mouths. The second is the relational level, and it’s the conversation taking place between hearts. When I’m talking to someone, regardless of what my mouth is saying, my heart is either communicating that I like the person I’m talking to, or I don’t. Though the relational level of communication tends to be implicit, the irony is, people are able to read it instinctively. It’s why we hear things like, “I can’t explain it; I just feel like he/she doesn’t like me.” And the thing is, nobody will listen to you unless they first sense you like them. Love is what changes a person.
The human way is to treat love like an exchange, trying to control those around us to make them into who we want them to be. Fortunately, the human way is not the only way. There’s an alternative, and it’s a lot more freeing. His name is Jesus.
The Jesus way doesn’t look at who someone “should” be; it sees them for who they are. Jesus doesn’t withhold His love until we make a change. He loves us where we are, and His love itself provokes in us change.
Withholding love to change a person invokes insecurity and people-pleasing. When we instead pour it on lavishly, something magical happens—the person is freed to be who they are, and to grow into who they were meant to be.
The Jesus way is freeing because in it we see, our responsibility is not to change people anyway—even if a change objectively needs to occur (and it’s not just our own opinion, which isn’t always the case). Transformation is God’s job, and our job is simply to be vessels of the very love He uses to transform.
Underneath the opinions, personality differences, and idiosyncrasies, we’re all just people in need of love and hefty helpings of grace, walking each other home. Next time we’re tempted to take the human way, let’s remember it’s not the only one.