Learning to Love

Learning to Love April 18, 2024

I have always been intrigued by C.S. Lewis’s words describing how you can change your heart over the long haul through your actions. He says once you recognize this to be true, you will have discovered one of life’s great secrets. Lewis says, “When you are behaving as if you love someone, you will soon come to love them.”

Most people assume this involves romantic love, yet it applies to all relationships, for we are called to “love our neighbors as ourself.” This includes friends, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone that God places in our lives.

Tim Keller learned this early in his career as a pastor. A pastor is required to befriend a lot of people he would never otherwise choose as friends. Doctors and counselors talk sympathetically and personally with people, but that happens within the strict confines of the office and the work week. Pastors live with the people they shepherd. They visit with them and eat and play with them, in restaurants and parks and in their homes, all the while talking to them about their life issues and problems.

Keller tells a specific story of how this happened in his own life. It occurred when he was pastoring a church in Hopewell, Virginia. Here is the story in his own words:

Kathy and I had a mid-week day off, and were deciding how to spend it. I thought of a particular couple in the church and proposed that we visit them or have them over. She looked at me astonished and said, “Why on earth?” This particular couple had few or no friends. They had many personal problems that made them unattractive to others and indeed to each other. Kathy certainly understood the need to see them and spend time with them, but this was our day off, and surely time with this couple was ministry “work.”

For a moment I was surprised by her surprise, and then I laughed when I saw what had happened. For months I had been investing much time, thought, and emotion into helping this couple move forward in life. In short, I had been doing various actions of love-listening, serving, sympathizing, confronting, forgiving, affirming, sharing. And after all that, I realized, I’d actually come to like them.

Why did that happen? Was it because I was so holy and spiritual? No, not in the slightest. It was because I’d stumbled onto this practical principle. I had been loving them even when I didn’t like them, and the result was that, slowly but surely, my emotions were catching up with my behavior. If you do not give up, but proceed to love the unlovely in a sustained way, they will eventually become lovely to you.

When you consider your feelings toward someone and the way you treat them, remember it is your actions you have control over. It is the action of love that we can maintain every day. Therefore we must always remember we can change our heart over the long haul through our actions.

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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