There are many instances in the Bible that indicate that Jesus was serious about his command to love others, even people who don't seem to deserve it. In each story of the crucifixion, he asks God to forgive those who are responsible for his death. In Matthew, he even goes so far as to tell the disciples to love and do good things for their enemies.

You may not have any sworn enemies, but it's likely that you can think of at least one person with whom you would avoid having any future interactions if possible. Loving people who hurt you or wish you harm may seem like an impossible task. However, there are several things you can do to make this particular expectation that Jesus has for his followers less difficult.

Try To Understand Their Perspective

Sometimes, a poor impression is well-founded. Often, however, a little empathy can go a long way toward changing your attitude toward people you don't like. Once you understand where they're coming from, it's harder to hold on to any grudges you have against them. You may even discover that you have some things in common!

Negative behavior often occurs when people act according to their fears. By looking at your interactions from others' perspectives, you may be able to understand the challenges they face and have compassion for them. When viewed through this lens, it's easier to hold them in positive regard even if they have spoken or acted harshly.

Demonstrate Kindness

It's nice to have kind thoughts about people, but these ideas will have a more positive impact on your relationship if you demonstrate them outwardly. There are several things you can do to let others know that you harbor no ill feelings toward them by showing kindness:

  • Greet them warmly with a smile.
  • Leave uplifting notes for them.
  • Say positive things about them to other people.
  • Thank them whenever they do something that's helpful to you.

Another benefit of behaving kindly toward people is that, over time, it will likely change your perception of them. The human brain doesn't typically handle dissonance well. If your words and actions communicate that you like someone, over time, the way you think about him or her will probably become more positive. Your brain will likely balance your opinion with your behavior.

Guard Your Own Heart

Holding on to anger against others may seem justified, especially if they consistently treat you or others badly. Your grudges seldom burden the people they are against, though. In fact, the bitterness that comes from clinging to resentment can continue to poison your spirit long after the guilty parties have forgotten all about you. Forgiveness may not be easy, but it releases you from the stress of holding all that vitriol in your heart.

Finally, as in all matters, continue to pray for God to help you guard your heart against the residual effects of long-term anger. You may not be able to forgive those who hurt you on your own, but it can be surprising how easy it is when you pray for their well-being, and God changes your heart toward them. God wants what's best for you and delights in helping you follow the ways of Jesus, even when those ways seem impossible. All you need to do is ask.

Walking the narrow path of Jesus isn't always easy, but it is rewarding in the end. As you pray for your enemies and learn to see them as God does, loving them won't seem like much of a stretch. It's this kind of love that can change a hateful world.

Category: Christianity

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