The month of Christmas, for all it's wonder and festivities, can also be a season where our "edge of love" can rear its little head. I call it the "edge of love" because even the most loving, non-judgmental, and kind people among us all have a perimeter, or boundary, of who and how we love. I love easily the people and moments in the middle of my circle of love: girls nights in front of fireplaces, snuggling with my husband, talking on the phone to my sister, getting together with family I adore.
But... certain types of settings and certain types of people (or even very specific people) don't invoke in me the same pure love. I can feel myself show up with a lack-of-love as I reach the outer edges of who and how I love.
My goal, of course, is to make that circle of love so big that I can show up in nearly every setting with absolutely anyone and feel nothing but innocent love for the people in front of me.
But I am still far from that:
- When I'm tired or have been around a lot of people lately.... I notice the circle closing in and getting smaller.
- When I hear certain rhetoric or politics on the news... I notice myself feeling tempted to move an entire segment of the population outside of my circle because of my judgments.
- When I feel forgotten or neglected or uninvited to something... I notice myself closing up a bit, which also shrinks the circle.
- When I am so focused on my to-do list that I can't sit and be with people in meaningful ways... I know that my agenda is filling up too much of my heart.
- When I am in certain settings that don't feel obviously meaningful (i.e. school programs, parties with people I don't know well) I am tempted to believe and expect little, therefore not showing up with an open heart.
- When I am with a certain friend who has felt more draining than fulfilling, I can feel the edge with her where I want to love her but am not feeling expansive.
Maybe you know the feeling, too. We know we are loving people; there's no question of that. But if we're honest, every single one of us has an edge to our circle. I invite you to close your eyes and ask yourself where you're seeing the edge of your love show up recently.
It's more important than ever this year. Practicing loving others is for our benefit as it leads to greater peace and joy in our lives as we watch ourselves judge, worry, or fear less. But this year, with all that is going on in the news, it's not just us that needs to feel more peace and safety, but our entire world is moaning with out it. Fear shrinks and closes us; love expands and opens us. We need a world where humanity is still showing up with open hearts.
Loving Others Can Include Boundaries. To be clear: we're talking about a circle of feeling love for someone, which isn't the same as having boundaries for what we can give or do for others. The circle of love doesn't mean I have to seek them out and hang out with them, spend time with them out of obligation, do whatever they ask of me, or give them all my time and energy. It does mean that we see the value every person has-- that we see them as the innocent and loved people that they are even if we don't understand them, agree with them, or if they act out of brokenness and wounds, like we do, sometimes. It means I can think about people, or see them in person, and want to only send them love and light. It means showing up able to wish every person the very best and mean it. Even with someone with whom I need to set boundaries with or limit my time with: I want to be able to think of them and feel love. In fact, I set the boundaries because I love them.
Loving Others Is About My Need for Healing. And when I don't--or can't-- I know it's because there is something in me that is wounded and still needs healing. And I want to see that, own it, and pray for healing in me that I could then show up with greater love for the other.
It's not their fault I have a hard time loving them, it's my invitation to become a more loving person. It's my responsibility to:
- Invite in all the love I can from the people and places that fill my tank up.
- Engage in the self-care and self-love that helps me hold all the love in my tank.
- Choose self-awareness over blame so that I have more opportunities to ask myself "Why does this really bother me? What is it triggering in me? What's this about?"
- Practice looking at those who annoy me and silently think "I love you anyway. You deserve love in this world," while simultaneously praying "Keep healing this in me so I don't feel provoked."
Loving Others Is the Work of a Lifetime! Oh I am far from this. It's one thing to write-up my ideals and quite another to actually reach them. But I will say that I have seen my circle of love grow bigger over the years, and that's encouraging! I can think back to people and situations that would have bothered me years ago where now I can stay peaceful or better able to access my joy. I can see the growth in me! That excites me! It reminds me that whatever "edge" feels impossible right now could feel easy this time next year!
This holiday season--whether you're with your in-laws who exhaust you or reacting to the news we see in this world--if there's anything we all wish we could put on our wish list, wouldn't it be more peace, love, and joy?
My prayer: Oh that we might see our love expanded this season. Replace our judgments with a willingness to see people differently, increase our ability to see people the way God does, and keep healing in us anything that limits our love.