In our culture, we are taught that we must earn or be "worthy" of love, or meet someone else’s standard in order to be lovable. We learn to hide a lot inside because we believe that if people really know who we are they won’t love us. We learn to "fit in", imitate popular people, and conform to what others expect. In other words, we constantly wear masks or put on a show as we attempt to be accepted and, most of all, loved.
We often carry that over to God. We believe God is waiting to pounce on our every misdeed and constantly judges us as falling far short of the divine standard. Yet scripture tells us that the God of all the universe, the One who put the stars in their place, the ultimate, infinite God loves each one of us personally and completely. As insignificant as I am in the scheme of all creation, God knows and understands me and longs to bind up my wounds, give me strength, carry me as on eagle’s wings, and share my yoke.
I admit that it blows me away. And indeed, wherever I go I find that people have an incredibly difficult time trying to grasp that they are so loved by God. It is especially hard to conceive for someone who has never felt honest acceptance and love from human beings. So I teach people in retreats and sessions that they are beloved; that helps. Even more importantly, I am increasingly making it a practice to offer unconditional love and kindness to people I encounter.
I tell a woman she looks really nice today. I compliment parents on how patient and loving they are with their child. I tell a child he has a great smile. I look the store clerk in the eyes and say a sincere "Thank you". When I go through airport security, I smile at all the TSA personnel and tell them I appreciate what they do to keep us safe and I hope they are proud of their work. Inevitably, when I compliment or treat someone with kindness, that person walks away with a smile, their shoulders held just a little higher and their step a little livelier. Even if only for moment, it eases their load.
What if we all started going out of our way to appreciate people and let them know they matter? In doing so, we act as Christ and lighten their burdens. We make our world a kinder, friendlier, more welcoming place. Receiving so much kindness from other people may even help them believe that the infinite God loves them, too. Regardless of the scope of the effect, isn’t that worth it? Who can you be kind to today?
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.