When I was in grade twelve, I kind of had a habit of getting into intense debates. Still do to be honest. But in grade twelve I was really starting to discover what I was passionate about and I was blessed enough to be put in classrooms with teachers who encouraged me to think for myself and friends who constantly challenged me (thanks). I learn best from talking things through and so these debates led to break throughs in how I thought. They often made me realize my beliefs, as I defended them.
So, I’m in my grade 12 religion class and the theme is ethics and morality. Inevitably we start talking about how to treat other people…and if our treatment of them should be dependant on how they treat us. And I’ll never forget the next 15 minutes or so that unfolded. One of the boys in the back of the class started, very determinedly I may add, stating that people who didn’t respect him did not deserve his respect in return. From his point of view, it was acceptable for him to treat people as “less than” if they didn’t give him the respect that he thought he deserved. He saw respect and care for other people as a transaction. I give you, you give me. And all the kids in my class nodded their heads and something inside of me just pulled back and felt sick. And being Sam, I decided I could not let this brief conversation go by without fighting back.
Suddenly I found myself at the center of a debate, my main argument being that human beings deserve respect solely on the basis that they are people. You do not have to like someone. You do not have to be best friends. But human beings deserve basic respect and someone else not showing you love does not give you an excuse to treat them subpar. I was very respectful but very adamant that he was wrong. We never did come to an agreement that day but I did learn a lot about my own thoughts and views.
A couple of weeks ago I was scrolling through Facebook, as one does, and I came across this post. I’m assuming that its a screenshot from a Tumblr post or something? I’m not super on top of my Tumblr knowledge (psst WordPress is better).
So I see this post and, I’m not exaggerating, I wanted to shout and jump around because YES. Yes, yes, yes a million times over. I wanted to find the person who wrote the second half of this and shake their hand. This is what love is. This is what life is about. This takes what I was trying to get that boy in my class to understand and takes it one step further. Because I would say that going further than only respect, we should actually love all people.
Here’s the thing. As humans, our gut reaction is to read just the first part of this and nod our heads in agreement. Obvious right? Why go above and beyond for anyone who isn’t willing to do the bare minimum for you? And that logic makes sense…if we’re being selfish. And if we’re being close minded. And if we want to limit our potential for love and fullness of life. But life is not just about us as individuals. Our world is beautifully interconnected and intertwined. Life is about connections.
I love people. I really do. I think people are fascinating and quirky and wonderful and weird and I love it. When people ask me why I’m studying International Development, the first words out of my mouth are always “I love people” (I have lots of others but this is the first). Because even though I do not know every individual on this planet, I do know that every single one of them has potential. They all have strengths and weaknesses and dreams and ideas. They have stories and pasts that give them a unique perspective. They know things that I don’t. And I love them. Regardless of the mistakes they make or the way they act, God made them with a purpose and if I want to live a full life, I want to show people love.
Obviously this perspective is heavily influenced by my faith. I’ve experienced love and sacrifice from my God on a level that I will never truly understand. I mean hello, died for us? And as much as I try to love people unconditionally and without strings attached, I definitely fall short sometimes. It’s hard! We disagree or we feel hurt when someone doesn’t appreciate our efforts. But when I step back, it always comes back to love. And I want to let the love God has given to me overflow into every aspect of my life, every breath I take, every word I speak, every person I meet and every day that I get on this earth.
1st Corinthians 13:7 says “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I want to learn what it means to love recklessly and enduringly. I want to love, regardless of what I get in return. Will I get hurt sometimes? Definitely. Sometimes loving people I don’t even know means I cry about earthquakes in other countries or get righteously and furiously angry about inequity. Love means being open to heartbreak, and I’m okay with that because the reward outweighs the risk, big time.
So I will cross oceans. I will climb mountains. I will step out of my comfort zone again and again. I will turn to God as an example and I will turn to people as the purpose. I will greet everyone as “friend”. I will connect and I will laugh with people who do not share my language. I will try my very best not to let my temporary frustrations influence the way I treat people.
Let’s not put ties on our lives. Let’s live fully and with love. Do it. Cross whatever “ocean” you’ve been avoiding and extend love to the people you see as unloveable, whether it be because of the way they’ve treated you or because of your own bias. Open your eyes. See worth rather than flaw.
This all sounds pretty basic. Like, we know, treat others how you want to be treated, thanks Mom. But seriously. I want to be known for being a woman who loved fiercely and compassionately rather than one who was bitter and so wrapped up in her own comfort that she forgot how valuable people and relationships really are.
Take a risk. You’ll survive a little heartbreak but f you never love openly, you won’t truly live.
– Until next time, Sam