I grew up in a very loving, close knit family. I was taught to be polite and kind to everyone regardless of race, beliefs, or who they were. But after I left the protected environment of my home, I saw that the world was not like my family. I couldn’t just approach someone and become friends. I also learned that some people didn’t like me automatically, like I liked them. What a rude awakening! After all I was polite and nice to them. Why didn’t they like me?
Some of these people changed as they grew into teenagers and on to adulthood and discovered better ways of treating others and behaving. Sadly, some did not. I used to avoid these people because as a young child and even young teenager I saw their behaviors and not the people they were or who they really were or what they had come through. So I became judgmental. I did not associate with the “bad” kids. I had no understanding of why they were the way they were but I didn’t care. I was a “good person.” This continued into high school. I got along with every one better, I think, but kept a close circle of friends and a bigger circle of others I liked as people. And a larger group who I only knew as classmates.
In junior and senior high school, I did not understand why people would cheat on papers and tests. I wanted to earn my grades. They broke the rules of the school; did destructive things to themselves and the buildings; some got into fights. Some did illegal and dangerous activities. This was in junior high.
So I adapted and lived in two different worlds. The warm loving one of my family and the microcosm of the real world of school. School was an eye opening experience for me.
One year things changed a lot. I was about fourteen or fifteen and heard an evangelist, I think it was Reverend Billy Graham. He spoke about love and what it truly was all about. He issued a challenge that changed my attitude and heart.
He told the audience that if they read I Corinthians Chapter 13 every night for a year their lives and hearts would be changed. I didn’t dislike myself the way I was but I always was striving to be better than I was at the time. I wanted to learn everything and anything that would make me a better person.
Part of this drive came from a misunderstanding of a Bible verse that said, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The interpretation I had learned did not clarify these words as well these in the link below.
It is not my goal to preach or convert anyone. But in order for you to see what changed me you will need to read the verses that I read. So here goes. I hope that someone else will accept that challenge made many years ago and be helped to see what love truly is.
1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
This was the biggest inspiration of my life. I changed. I realized that I could love a person but not love what they did or how they felt. I actually met a friend of another person whom I genuinely liked but did not like his personal habits. I could treat him like I treated everyone else because it wasn’t the person’s habits or shortcomings that I cared about. It was that person! That was an eye and heart opening experience for me.
Now I try to see others as people who are trying to find their way in the world. Some are truly trying to live a good life, some are not. But I want to believe that even the ones who are failing are loved by someone and will know that love and change. It does happen, believe me. I have witnessed it, heard about it and know it can happen. Real enduring love can heal.
What would the world be like without love. Better still what would the world be like if we all loved each other?