Do you struggle with loving people who are easy to love?
Probably not, right!
People who are kind, compassionate and loving are so easy to care for and they invite love in.
But what about the people who are difficult to love — those who may not treat you well or show respect toward you?
What about people who are abusive or mean?
What about people who you feel don’t actually deserve your love and kindness?
Today we are going to discuss how we can love people (even the most difficult ones) in a healthy, safe and God-centred way. Stay tuned!
Living out the Fruits of the Spirit, one of those fruits being LOVE, can be difficult at times. It is much easier when people are being loving and kind toward you, but how can you show love when you’re in conflict or just feeling angry and resentful?
It’s not easy, but it’s definitely possible, and it begins with prayerfully considering what you might do when difficult situations arise.
The Bible says in Galatians 5:22–23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
This is the first video/article in a series all about the Fruits of the spirit. Each video/article will help you see how you can live in a God-centred way, even when you don’t feel like or even know how to show up in the midst of stress, frustration and hurt feelings.
The first fruit of the spirit is Love. Sometimes I wonder if God put these in order of importance and ‘love’ made spot #1 because it is so paramount to living a life aligned with Christ. Hmmmmm?
The Bible talks about a specific type of love called “agape” love. Agape love is focused on self-sacrifice, goodwill and devotion to others. It is much more than a feeling or admiration for another person. Agape love is being of service with a positive spirit that honours both the other person and God.
But how do we honour people who are sinning against us? Do we actually honour someone when we allow them to sin against us repeatedly? Should we hold them accountable?
Jesus had some great wisdom to share on this. He specifically asks His followers to do much more than love people who are easy to love. He says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
How can we show agape love, or sacrifice, goodwill and devotion to others, when we feel they hurt us or we don’t deserve our love and support?
We can learn how from God Himself. One of the most well-known verses in the Bible is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This is the ultimate demonstration of love! The incredible, overwhelming gift and sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for each of us.
Love is God’s true nature: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). He wants to transform us so that our character is also defined by love.
When you practice agape love, you give freely without judging whether the other person deserves it or not. You give this love without expecting anything back. You give it because God gave it to you first.
Agape love is about so much more than a feeling — it is about God’s ultimate will for your life.
CS Lewis in Mere Christianity said the following:
“Love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of feelings, but of the will. The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the greatest secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him…though (Christian love) is quite distinct from affection, it leads to affection.”
Therefore when you love with your actions, the emotion will eventually follow. This can heal many relationships that are safe to attempt to reconcile.
However, it isn’t always easy….
Especially when someone is treating you in, what you feel, is a rude or unkind way.
So how can we love almost ANYONE — even the people who are DIFFICULT to love?
1. Know that God Loves Everyone Equally
Knowing that God loves us all equally helps me love people who I find difficult. One thing I have practiced over the last year is to ascribe good intentions to others. Most people are hurting in some way and are trying to do their best. We can choose to love and extend forgiveness to everyone.
Jesus on the cross prayed, “Forgive them father for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Hurting people don’t always think about how their actions affect others. Because they are in pain, their priority is themselves. God loves these people too and wants to heal them. You can choose to show God’s love to them and remember to create boundaries and limits as needed for your own health.
For example, if you want to love them and forgive them from afar, you can ask God to give you the strength to let go, but refrain from being in contact with them. Loving someone doesn’t mean that we invite them into our personal lives. Some people are just not safe for us to have close by. But God loves this person as much as He loves all of us and in knowing that we can extend grace, forgiveness and love in His strength.
2. Realize that You can Only Control how YOU Show Up
It is not about how they show up, it’s about how YOU show up. I love a quote my mother-in-law uses: “Their actions reveal their character and your actions reveal yours.” What is your character? Jesus directed us to “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31a). Since we can only control how we show up in any given circumstance, we can actively choose love over anger, knowing it’s what God wants us to do. When you are weak, He will give you strength to love those you judge as difficult to love.
So for example, you go to a family gathering and one of the people there is very difficult to be around. You want to see the other people but this one brings up a lot of negativity and stress inside you. So what do you do? How can you love this person even though they are very difficult to love? First, if there is stress and anxiety inside us because of this person, we are giving them a lot of power over our thoughts and feelings. We cannot control their actions or words, however, we can control how we process that.
You might try one of the following strategies:
❤️ You can imagine their words/actions/energy sliding off your back or ignore it to the best of your ability and focus on the people at the event we want to be with.
❤️ You can do breathing exercises beforehand and prepare yourself with words and actions that fill your soul before walking into that difficult situation.
❤️ You may want to focus on specific scripture that builds you up before you go to the event.
We have a choice and we can choose to pray, for that person and ourselves, that God would work within everyone’s heart to bring us all closer to him.
I love how 1 Peter 3:13–16 explains that putting God first, living in a place of hope and showing gentleness and respect to others is important in any situation: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
So remember, you choose how you show up — they choose how they do. Do what you can to control your own words, thoughts and feelings and I believe you will honour God in your own choices.
3. Practice Praying for Those who Persecute You
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43–44) He asks us to pray for people who persecute us, to PRAY for the individual who is not showing love to us.
You might find it a little difficult to pray for someone who has hurt, or is currently hurting you, yet this is what God calls us to do. You can give your feelings over to God and ask him to heal the person or relationship in His timing.
You can also pray that He works in your heart to rid you of any resentment or negative thoughts.
It is possible to rise above with the power of the Holy Spirit that is in you. “With His strength, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)!
When thinking about forward-movement in the area of healthy love, here are a few question to ponder:
What is one way you can show agape love to someone in your life today?
Name one person who you have had resentment toward that you could pray for right now. Write out your prayer for this person.
What does the quote “Their actions reveal their character and your actions reveal yours” mean to you?
What is one way you could display love to a person you don’t especially ‘love’ right now to reveal the agape love God asks you to show them?
I hope these questions bring up some awareness in you and help you show love even in the most difficult circumstances. Your well-being is important so please be careful around people who are toxic or extremely unhealthy. In these cases, you might want to erect boundaries that keep you safe and continue to pray for God to work in their heart.
I also know from personal experience that holding onto resentment and unforgiveness can cause a lot of pain inside.
I believe Forgiveness and Boundaries are key to living a healthy and happy life so I pray that you gained wisdom from this article. For additional support, look through my free guidebooks and download the titles you feel will help you most :).