Love others. It seems like such a simple concept, doesn't it? All you have to do when you interact with people is to see the love that God has for them and respond accordingly, but this is frequently more difficult in practice than in theory. It's easy to say that you love your neighbor when they are not right in front of you, demanding your time or other resources, saying hurtful things or challenging your worldview. While abuse and intentionally mean-spirited behavior are not something you have to tolerate, most of the bad feelings you experience with others likely result from misunderstanding or the clash of drastically different perspectives. For people of faith, it is a good practice to learn how to love them anyway.
Engage in Mutual Aid
Generosity can build a sturdy bridge over rough waters. Get into the habit of meeting the needs of people in your community as they come to your attention. Keep in mind, however, that your attitude when you volunteer or donate goods or money can be just as important as your service. No one enjoys feeling like an object of charity. Give your time gladly without expecting an exuberant outpouring of gratitude. If possible, donate anonymously. If you're seeking credit for your actions, you may want to examine whether your heart is in the right place.
You were probably raised hearing that it is better to give than receive, and there is certainly wisdom in that statement. However, giving isn't just good for you; it's good for everyone. Being humble enough to accept help when you need it blesses both you and the person who is able to assist you. You can just as easily show love when receiving aid as when you are giving it.
Cultivate an Open Mind
Believing that everyone is entitled to their opinion is easier said than done. Even those who pride themselves on how open-minded they are may still have certain viewpoints that they consider more correct than the ones held by others. There is nothing wrong with having strong opinions, and it's ok to disagree. How you treat people with whom you differ, however, indicates how open-minded you really are.
Being able to appreciate points of view that are different from your own requires empathy. Some people seem to have a natural talent for understanding others, but most have to work at it. One habit that can help you increase your ability to empathize is reading. Specifically, you should try to read books written by people who hold different viewpoints or have dissimilar life experiences from your own. Think about the main ways you find yourself disagreeing with others:
- Political views
- Theological differences
- Economic strategies
- Child-rearing techniques
- Activist movements
If you are an avid reader who finishes several books a month, consider choosing five or six a year that you would normally avoid because of the author's background or opinions. Those who read less can still pick one or two books every year that expose them to another way of looking at things. You may find that you have more in common than you thought, or you may discover that you grossly misunderstood the intentions behind the values they hold dear. The more time you spend pondering other views, the faster your empathy is likely to grow. This practice can help you become someone who is able to make real peace with others rather than one who just keeps up the appearance of it. This lays the foundation for mutual respect and love.
Loving others is not as easy as it sounds. Working to understand and be an integral part of others' lives helps you put your love into action.