Every now and then my dad will unearth an artifact from my childhood. He brought one over a while back—a bicycle safety vest that I wore when I was little. When he handed it to me the memories of wearing it came rushing back.
Nobody really wore bicycle helmets for safety then, but my big brother and I put those bright orange safety vests on over our jackets, climbed onto our bikes, pedaled down our quarter mile dirt (sometimes mud) driveway and along the mostly quiet country roads to our elementary school a couple of miles away.
Looking at my little vest now, I know it represents that my parents loved me—loved us. Rather than just saying they loved us, they showed us, by making us wear those vests.
I’ve thought lately about what it means to practice love. It’s kind of a funny thing to consider, but you have to think about how you demonstrate it, rather than just telling someone you love them. You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. My parents did.
Another way to practice love is allowing people around us to be themselves whether we like it or not. Mother Teresa said that if you judge people, you have no time to love them.
I understand that because when I’m judging, I’m being critical and focusing on the negative aspects of that person. If I can appreciate or even respect them for who they are and not for how I want them to be, I’m practicing love. The more I practice it, the better I’ll be at it, I think.
One way to practice love is simply to allow people to be a part of our lives. In one of Andrea Scher‘s Morning Mantra‘s she spoke of giving our friends the opportunity to be involved in our lives. The example she shared was when something is going on in our lives that we need support and encouragement around but we don’t connect with our people so they can be a part of it. Maybe we think we’re a bother or we’re dumping on them (I don’t think she used the word dumping).
The point is, it’s not always dumping and when we don’t connect, we aren’t giving our friends the chance to be a part of our lives; a chance to help us out and commune with us. I like it when people let me know what’s going on. It makes me feel special to be a part of their lives.
I’m guilty of not connecting though. I didn’t tell one of my best girlfriends when I had major surgery. The truth is, I didn’t tell anybody until I needed my mother-in-law to watch my dog two days in a row while I was in the hospital and she asked what was up. Then I needed my step-mom to come spend the night with me when I was in pain during my recovery and Leif was gone. When my friend learned I’d kept the surgery to myself for six months, until after I was fully recovered, she was Mad! It set the precedent that our friendship wasn’t important and made it easy for her to not share things with me later. I’d indicated that we weren’t important that way. Wow—hard lesson learned and not a way to foster a closer relationship, for sure.
That was not practicing love. That was being weird.
Finally, of course, our daily actions speak so much louder than our words. We can make an effort every day to practice love. Sometimes we respond when another person asks for something but other times we show love in the little, unsolicited things we do.
When my son is at the house and voluntarily does the dishes or mows the lawn, it’s his way of practicing love. When I watch a movie my husband picks out that I hate without complaining or adding commentary, that’s practicing love. When he cooks my favorite meal when I’m feeling blah because he knows I’ll love it. When my daughter puts her arms around a friend but doesn’t talk—just listens. When we’re patient with the children and elderly people we know. You get the idea . . .
Some lessons I’ve learned about practicing love:
- People want to be a part of your life. Let them be.
- Daily actions add up to a pretty solid message.
- Despite your actions, it’s still good to Say, “I love you.”
What are ways people in your life show they love you rather than just saying so? What about you–what do you do?