Let’s face it. We all have them. Favorite Sins. No, I know none of us would really classify them that way. We don’t like our sins. We’re trying to overcome them. We’re trying to get rid of them. But there are the sins we seem to subconsciously turn to when the going gets tough. We’ve said over and over again that we wouldn’t do them again, but then things get hectic and crazy and the next thing we know we did it again. Been there? I have.
We’ve been learning about the importance of cleaning up our side of the street and four keys to accomplishing that goal. However, we can only keep our side of the street clean by pursuing actions of love in all our relationships. In fact, that was step 4 of keeping our side of the street clean.
The burning question is how? How do we pursue the actions of love in all our relationships. Let me share 5 keys that will help you pursue the actions of love in all your relationships.
Key #1: Give, don’t take.
Sadly, the number one way we junk up our side of the street is by taking from others. Perhaps we cheat someone in a business deal. Perhaps we lie to them to get our way. Perhaps we lust after them and store their image in our minds for our own purposes. Perhaps we manipulate them to get what we want. When we are bound by self we take and take and take. We may never actually steal something physically from them, but we are taking from others all the time.
All the stuff we take goes somewhere. It goes right on our side of the street. How do we get rid of all that? Change the very nature of our relationships. Instead of viewing others for what we can get from them, we need to see what we can give to them. We need to give and not take.
Give time. Give support. Give love. Give prayers. Give money. Give material things. Give honesty. Give honor. Give credit. Give whatever you can, to whoever you can, whenever you can.
Key #2: Serve, don’t rule
Too many of us walk around like despots of our own little kingdom, acting as if everyone in our family, on our job, at our school, in our neighborhood is here to support and serve us. When we do, relationships run amok. Our street is junked up by all the wounded people we have tread on in our attempts to be the king of the hill.
Taking the actions of love means serving instead of ruling. Taking the actions of love means going out of our way to help others. When someone asks for help, don’t roll your eyes, exhale your frustration, or passive aggressively rebel. Just do it. Do it because you love them. View it as an excellent opportunity to show them you care.
But don’t always wait until they ask for help. Find ways you can serve. If you look around the house and see a mess, don’t get upset at everyone else who hasn’t cleaned up. Just clean up and show love. Is something broken? Don’t start a witch hunt to find the culprit, just fix it. Yes, yes, I do understand that while dealing with children there is a time to teach them about cleaning up and not breaking things. But even then, make sure your attitude is not one of getting vengeance on them, but rather one of serving them by helping them grow to maturity.
Key #3: Sacrifice
We take giving to a new level here. This means giving even when it hurts. This means taking of our own and giving to others.
Maybe we don’t want to watch the game, go to the store, eat at that restaurant, watch the kids, etc. That is when we are really put to the test about pursuing the actions of love. When we go to the opposite of our selfish nature, we are going to be sacrificing a lot. We may not get everything we want. We may give up some of our precious time. We may not achieve all our desires.
Jesus said the greatest love is to lay down our lives for a friend. That is the ultimate sacrifice. Many of us claim we would lay down our lives for our friends and family. Yet, we won’t even take the trash out for them. We won’t give up our favorite tv show to help them. We won’t take the time to drive across town to give them a lift. If we won’t give up a few minutes of our life for them, what makes us think we would give up our entire lives for them.
Key #4: Acts as if
The hardest part is there are times when we just don’t feel the love for all these other people. Perhaps they have hurt us. Or perhaps our selfishness is just kicking in and instead of demonstrating love we’d rather lick our wounds, defend ourselves, pursue our rage. This is time for one of those great pieces of advice that helps in numerous ways. Act as if.
Act as if you loved them. In other words, don’t act the way you feel. Stop and ask, “If I actually loved this person, what would I do next?” Then do that, whether you feel it or not.
Good strong feelings of love will grow if you pursue the actions of love. If you are going to wait around for the right feeling, you are probably going to be in big trouble.
Key #5: Do all of this without expectations
Here is the real clincher that makes any and all of this a true action of love. Do it without expectations. If you are only doing these things because you expect something in return, you are pursuing actions of manipulation, not love.
Fix the leaky faucet without expecting a thank you. Cook supper and clean up the kitchen without expecting accolades of praise. Offer praise and honor to others without expecting them to return the favor. Guys, clean up after the kids without expecting your wife to pay you back in the bedroom later. Pursue the actions of love without expecting everyone else to pursue actions of love with you.
I have no doubt that in most cases, when you pursue actions of love, you relationships will improve. You will be noticed. You will be praised. But if that is the only reason you are doing these things, it will be short lived. It will be especially short lived because you won’t likely make it out of the phase in which everyone else is saying, “What on earth do you want?” At first, everyone will assume you are manipulating them. But if you keep it up because you weren’t expecting anything, some of your relationships will really change for the better.
A friend once told me that expectations are just premeditated resentment. The fact is, expectations are actually us working on someone else’s side of the street. We expect them to have a clean street. When they don’t we get bitter. Don’t go down that side of the road. Stay on your side.
Of course, I need to offer the caveat to those who are on the receiving end. Even though the one pursuing actions of love is not doing this to receive a thank you, be noticed, or get rewarded. You really should at least say thank you. If you don’t, then you aren’t pursuing actions of love, are you?
If you want great relationships, quit trying to fix everyone else. Clean up your side of the street. Pursue actions of love no matter what anyone else is doing. I can’t promise every relationship will be stellar. However, you will have the serenity of knowing that you are working on and growing in what is right.
I’ve seen what is called the “Serenity Prayer” for years. Most commonly it is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, written during the early 1930s. It became famous in modified form by 12 step programs. I’ve seen it cross-stitched on walls. I’ve seen it printed on posters. I’ve even seen it written on bathroom stalls.
Until recently, I thought it only contained three lines:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
That little bit of the prayer has actually helped me in numerous situations. It has kept me from blowing up at people I cannot change. It has kept me from falling prey to temptations I cannot change. It has kept me from sinking in the mire of past actions I cannot change.
However, I have learned that the original prayer/poem was a bit longer and I want to share it with you.
- God grant me the serenity
- To accept the things I cannot change;
- Courage to change the things I can;
- And wisdom to know the difference.
- Living one day at a time;
- Enjoying one moment at a time;
- Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
- Taking, as He did, this sinful world
- As it is, not as I would have it;
- Trusting that He will make all things right
- If I surrender to His Will;
- So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
- And supremely happy with Him
- Forever and ever in the next.
I know this prayer is not inspired scripture. But it certainly was inspired by scripture. I want to remember this prayer. I want to remember that there are numerous things I cannot change and I need to quit wasting my time and energy trying to change those. There is something I can change, by the grace of God. That is me. May I always have the wisdom to remember that.
I want to live one day at a time (cf. Matthew 6:34) and quit trashing today by worrying about tomorrow. I want to trust that God will make all things right in His time. I want to surrender myself to His will and simply do the next right thing. Through that, I can have happiness, not through pursuing my own ideas. My best thinking messed me up. God’s thinking is what will save me and make tomorrow better.
Just thought I’d share.