We all long to be loved. There is a void in our lives that leaves a sense of emptiness, until it’s filled with genuine love.
Genuine love is not likes, follows or comments, and it’s not having sex outside of marriage.
When we are in love, everything tends to change. The way we look at things, react, respond, move, and interact with others tends to be impacted. It is then that our life begins to bloom. When we are loved, we’re able to love others. Love is contagious, just as smiles are.
Mother Theresa said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the beginning of love is a smile.”
Love has been described as a life demonstrated through our loving deeds.
1 John 3:18 of the The Passion Translation (TPT) states, “Beloved children, our LOVE can’t be an abstract theory we only talk about, but a way of life demonstrated through our loving deeds.”
The King James version says, “My little children, let us not LOVE in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
And the Amplified version (appropriately named because it amplifies nearly everything in it), “Little children, let us not LOVE [merely] in theory or in speech but in DEED and IN TRUTH (in PRACTICE and in SINCERITY).”
I’ve added the capitals and italics for emphasis. I’m trying really hard to keep my blogs from being short books, so I’m not going real deep on the topic of love (in this one blog) because there are so many aspects, dynamics, and perspectives of it. However, I’m going to attempt to dive into the topic deeper and deeper through a series I plan to do.
Love is an action word and unfortunately, it’s a word that often is used so much that it loses its context and meaning. How many of us have been told by people that they love us and we catch ourselves thinking, “You don’t even know me … you’ve not even taken the time to get to know me … do you really even know what that means?” If we’re not careful we can easily slip into a mindset of questioning whether the person’s words are valid or not. And how do we judge whether or not they are?
As the old saying goes, “we need to walk our talk.”
If you telling someone you love them isn’t backed up with action of some sort, it’s likely you’re simply desensitizing yourself and the person to whom you’re saying that to the real meaning of love.
Until people know that you care, through your actions, they basically don’t care what you know.
Now, while the Bible does tell us that God disciplines those He loves, how many times have you had someone come to you with correction that basically doesn’t even know you? Perhaps incidents like that are why the Bible cautions us about trying to remove specks from others’ eyes while we have plank sticking out ours? Selah. (Stop and think about that).
If love is an action word, then by what acts can we show love? While this list is not all inclusive, nor any order of priority, it’s what I thought of as I wrote this blog.
1. Be present and intentional. Put your smart phone away. Stay engaged and present. Pay attention and listen more than you talk. How often have we been having a conversation with someone, perhaps even sharing a meal, and we experience them paying more attention to their phone, social media, emails, taking calls, etc.? Those actions communicate that the relationship really isn’t a priority. When you take the time to put the phone on mute (or better yet, away), are intentionally present, engaged, paying attention and listening more than you’re talking, it communicates to the other person that you value them, their time, and their company. And if there are times that it’s an emergency or critically urgent, simply politely excuse yourself to respond, then return to being engaged with who you are presently with.
2. Eye contact. As therapists, we’re trained to assess eye contact because it has the potential to communicate a vast amount of information; sincerity vs. insincerity, truthfulness vs. deceit, insecurity vs. self confidence, authenticity vs. shady, and the list goes on.
3. Validate feelings. Just because you validate a person’s feelings doesn’t mean they are right or wrong, you’re simply acknowledging that you’ve heard what they are saying and confirming what their experience, from their perspective feels like.
4. Being present vs. giving advice. We’ve all experienced it, the need to talk, to get things out and having someone interrupt us to tell us what to do (or worse yet, to tell us about themselves!). I’m as guilty as the next person and this is an area I had to work super hard at when I was in graduate school learning to be a therapist / counselor. Often times people are not comfortable with silence and simply being present, yet this is what is needed vs. giving advice, telling them what they should have, could have, and need to do.
5. Love languages. Being aware of one another’s love languages and working to communicate with that language is a key to the other person feeling … receiving your love. More often than not, we aren’t aware and we do to others what we want to receive and it simply doesn’t communicate love. For instance, my love language is acts of kindness, yet Steve’s is words of affirmation and touch. I’ve had to teach myself, over the past 15 years, to intentionally tell him and physically touch him to demonstrate my love. It’s much easier for me “to do”, but when I realized that he could care less whether or not the laundry is done, dishes and house clean, nor that I hung and put away his clothes (he appreciates it, but it’s not his love language). Taking the time to verbally affirm and encourage him, while simply touching him makes him feel loved, respected and even adored. Don’t hesitate to ask what a person’s love language is, even in a work environment. Want to please your boss? Find out what theirs is and you’ll be on the road to outstanding job performance reviews.
6. Boundaries. Yes, boundaries need to be included. We have 5 acres and us maintaining the fencing isn’t about what our property looks like, it’s about keeping our animals safe inside the boundary and keeping unsafe animals out. We have horses, including miniatures, cows, chickens, bunnies, dogs and cats that are like children to us (especially because we don’t have our own children). Boundaries are something that many people struggle with and without them, emotionally, mentally, or physically, the results are nearly always pain and hurt.
7. Build one another up vs. tearing each other down. Speak life, not death, negativity, and criticism. Now, there is a place for constructive criticism and best practice models how to deliver it; criticism sandwiched with positivity. How we say things is also important. I’ve struggled with this most of my life because I’m a natural type A, direct person.
When I worked for The Salvation Army, my supervisors would regularly build me up in affirming that I was their go to person to resolve problems (and daily overseeing 8 residential programs with over 230 homeless persons with over 2/3 of them in a building that was nearly 100 years old in downtown Tampa, there were a crazy amount of them). They would remind me that 80% of the world was sensitive and basically don’t handle directness very well. You couple that with trauma, which we’ve all experienced in one degree or another … with 1 in our 4 women and 1 in 8 men survivors of sexual trauma … you have sensitive people deeply wounded all around us. We need to be careful how we act and communicate with all people. Careful to be building and not tearing them down.
8. Make disciples. This is the great commission and I think the reason God said it was this other than just get their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, pack out your services and meetings, etc. was because He knew this would require us dying to ourselves and loving people in action. It would take doing life with one another, not just a weekly meeting or two. Jesus committed himself to discipling 12 by living with them day in and day out. We’re to be like Him, aren’t we? Those 12 changed to the world. It takes commitment, an incredible amount of courage, and a TON of LOVE to make disciples because there are so many emotionally and mentally wounded people. I think God also knew that when we invest ourselves in the lives of others, teaching and mentoring them with the Word of God (making disciples) that they would a) learn who He is and b) find out who they are Christ = VICTORY and FREEdom™ anyway you look at it. And all summed up = LOVE.
9. Be available. Let’s face it, we will make ourselves available for those we love, regardless of how busy we are. We are in control of our schedules and we do what we want to do. Now, this is not to be confused with unhealthy boundaries because we don’t want to enable people … especially needy, wounded, broken people. (Notice I put boundaries above this). There is a fine line. Look at how God loves us, for instance. He NEVER enables us, but is always available. Now, we as humans cannot be, nor do I recommend that we are, available 24/7, but we need to make ourselves available to show we love others. This requires dying to self. If you say you love someone, but aren’t available to listen to them, spend time with them, enjoy their company, help them through stuck areas, invest in their lives … well, it’s not really love. Love is an action word.
10. Protect. When we really love someone we will do whatever is necessary to protect them and we won’t intentionally grieve them. The amazing thing with God is that when we obey Him, we position ourselves to be protected. When we choose to intentionally sin, we risk removing ourselves from His protection because sin separates us from Him. The guidelines He set up in the Word aren’t to keep us from having fun, they are to protect us, BECAUSE He loves us. All guidelines are typically established to protect because there has been a problem that mandates a guideline being established. When we have someone that protects us, we know they love us. However, we have free will and God will let us do what we want, but don’t ever think for a second that when we chose sin that it does not grieve Him.
It was THAT revelation that led me to recommit my life to God nearly 16 years ago. I realized that I was in love with God and I did not want to grieve Him by intentionally sinning anymore. Although He would graciously forgive me, I realized that when I subjected myself to going into a strip club and working that it grieved Him. His love did not waver the entire time I was there nor at the end of the night when I would ask Him to forgive me, and in the same breath thank Him for the amount of money I made, because that meant so many days I wouldn’t have to work there. That night at my desk in Indianapolis, IN, what mattered to me ULTIMATELY, as I battled the thought of having to go back, was that I NOT grieve the only being Who had loved me unconditionally through ALL the poor decisions I had made that resulted in me being in a lifestyle of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bondage for 7 years. He set me free that night … actually He set me free over 2000 years ago on the cross, but it was that night that I was made a new creation and from then on, His love has radically transformed, healed, and restored my life in countless ways.
That same love is available to you. A love that isn’t just a nice phrase, but the greatest love ever from the Creator of everything. He is love and He loves you more than I can express in words. Wanna find out more about Him? Read the greatest love story ever, the Holy Bible. Learn about Him, that He created us in His image, and how He’s demonstrated His love to us since the creation of Adam and Eve.
We can’t give what we we haven’t received. Although the ruler of this world, satan, has done a remarkable job creating counterfeits of God’s love, they won’t last like His does. I challenge you to receive the love of God so that you can give it away. Why have fake when you can have the real thing?
Ok, back to the list of ways to love … it is not all inclusive and I’d love to hear what you’d add to this. And, by any means please don’t think for a second I have all of these down pat and perfect because I don’t. I’m a work in process, but I’m not who I used to be and I’m committed to #embracingthejourney of becoming the person God wants me to be. It’s a goal list for me. Making time for people I love is one of the areas I’m really trying hard to work on currently. Which are do you need to work on? I’d love to hear from you!
Embracing the journey,
Below are some scriptures that stand out to me. There are literally 100’s that reference love in the Bible, which is basically the greatest love story ever. And there are different types, which I’ll get into later.
For a breakdown of these scriptures and others, please friend me on the YouVersion bible app., where I share my study notes, lessons, messages, and images from the Word. I’m simple to find, search for Julie Shematz. We can even do a study together if you want there. Love and praying for you!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (KJV)
“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” John 3:16 (AMPC)
“For the [true] love of God is this: that we do His commands [keep His ordinances and are mindful of His precepts and teaching]. And these orders of His are not irksome (burdensome, oppressive, or grievous).” 1 John 5:3 AMPC
“Jesus answered, If a person [really] loves Me, he will keep My word [obey My teaching]; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home (abode, special dwelling place) with him. Anyone who does not [really] love Me does not observe and obey My teaching. And the teaching which you hear and heed is not Mine, but [comes] from the Father Who sent Me.” John 14:23-24 AMPC
“Jesus replied, “Loving me empowers you to obey my word. And my Father will love you so deeply that we will come to you and make you our dwelling place. But those who don’t love me will not obey my words. The Father did not send me to speak my own revelation, but the words of my Father.” John 14:23-24 TPT