I have to admit, to myself and to those who have to live with me… that I am often unloving. (gasp!) Any thinking person would have to admit the same is true in them, at least to some degree. As I’ve pondered this fact, I’ve come up with at least 5 reasons why it is the case for me…
#1 – I am afraid of people. – I don’t mean this as in “I’m afraid they will hurt me or treat me badly,” though I guess that could be the case for some. For me it’s more in this way: “I’m afraid to interact with people because I’m not sure I’ll be up to the task.” All people (including me) are broken and hurting, in need of love. I don’t always feel up to the challenge of giving it to them as I know I should. So ironically, the very fact that I’m not good at loving others often moves me to be even more unloving… by withdrawing from social contexts, avoiding certain people who I know are needy, or not taking initiative with others simply out of love and concern for them. It may also manifest itself in me not engaging with others because I’m afraid of what they might think of me, or conclude about me. All this shows me (again) that…
#2 – I am insecure. – This is really the bottom line of the previous point, but warrants a little more investigation. Though I’ve been around the block enough times to know that there truly are areas and things that I’m gifted by God to do, I still feel uneasy when it comes to dealing with people. I still feel this way even though I’ve seen the LORD use me in such relational contexts time and time again. Loving others simply doesn’t come very naturally to me, and I let my feeling of discomfort with it get the best of me. I know that some of this tension exists because of personality and gifting (which are what God has made them, and are therefore good), but the fact remains that I’m insecure. I can’t help but feel that there’s a place in this where I’m not trusting God as I should…
#3 – I care more about things than I do people. – There are certain things I really enjoy doing and being involved in… and other things that I don’t – at all. AS EXAMPLES:
- I like organizing stuff and planning out things.
- I like studying.
- I like preparing sermons.
- I like working on special projects.
- I like writing.
- I don’t like the messiness of relationships.
- I don’t like the difficulty involved in good communication.
- I don’t like feeling obligated toward others (though many times obligation is a good thing… as in “duty.”)
- I don’t like dealing with people’s emotions (or my own for that matter).
DID YOU NOTICE… most of my “likes” have to do with things… most of my “dislikes” have to do with people? Personal preferences may be signs of where I’m more gifted, which is good to know. But when I allow my preferences to dictate where I spend my time, I’m moving toward the realization that…
#4 – I’m selfish. – No justifications. No arguments. Just an admission that it’s true. I want what I want. I want to do what I want to do. Way too much of the time I consider what I want before I consider what another may need. For some reason I’ve become very good at making the needed self-sacrifices when it comes to my family. But when it comes to those who are not as close to me I have a much harder time. Is the fact that I love my family more than the generic “other person” the reason that I’m able to sacrifice unselfishly for them? Probably. So how am I to understand that? I’ll probably always (and probably always should) love my family in greater ways than I do others. How am I to love those others, who are not my family, in just as effective terms, even though the same kind or depth of love is not at the root of my actions?
# 5 – I am not very compassionate. – I am able to sympathize with those who are suffering or in need, honestly, I am. I can put myself in their shoes most of the time, and feel at least some of what they feel. But even though that’s true, I often think the plight of others’ pain does not touch me as deeply as it ought. Maybe I don’t know enough of the facts of their situation. Maybe I don’t put myself into their shoes enough. Maybe I just don’t step away from my “to do” list long enough to let myself truly be moved with compassion. I need to be more compassionate. I need to care more about people.
Where to from here?
Sometimes this fact of my unloving-ness immobilizes me. I feel stuck, unable to change it, and hopeless that there’s really anything that I can do to change it. I don’t like feeling that way. In fact, I hate it.
So where to? What CAN I do?
Biblically, I only see one thing… to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18). I must learn to step obediently into every work God has appointed for me to do (Ephesians 2:10) – whether I feel like it or not, whether I feel up to it or not, whether I believe it to be one of my strong suits or not. As I do, He will produce His fruit in me and through me… the first of which is love (Galatians 5:22).
In the end, it’s not up to me to produce the fruit of love… it’s up to me to submit to the Spirit’s lead, which allows HIM to produce the fruit of love in me.