I am looking at it from a Christian perspective, but even if you aren't a Christian, you can probably relate to the idea that we all want to be loving people. Society admires Mother Theresa, we make heroes of people who risk their lives for others, we love to watch feel good videos of people helping old ladies across the street.
Some people think at the core of humanity is darkness waiting to get out. I like to believe the opposite; we are all good people at the core, with other things that crowd around and drown the goodness out.
I think we like the idea of being people who can love unconditionally, but I know for myself its become abundantly clear that my love is conditional.
What do I mean by love? I don't mean the gooey romantic stuff, or familial love, I mean the 'treat others how you want to be treated,' kind of love. Respect, understanding and patience towards others. Putting them before yourself (yes, I know this is insanely hard). Thats what I mean by love.
It's easy to love people who love us. So nice to chat to that person I get on with well. Nice to buy a coffee for my friend who cares about me. And easy to give time to people who give time back.
But its so hard to love people who drive badly, who are socially weird, who are not very nice, or who are shy and awkward to talk to. People who clog our streets smelling bad, or the colleague who makes cutting remarks.
I don't love those people. But how should I? How would I want to be treated if I were them?
I honk and roll my eyes at bad drivers, but if I do something stupid on the road I appreciate it when the other person just smiles at me, shrugs their shoulders. No aggression, just understanding.
I appreciate it when I am standing alone at a party or gathering, when someone comes and makes an effort to talk to me, instead of just going to their friends.
And when I'm in a bad mood and speak cutting words, I appreciate it when those around me forgive me and just let it go. I usually feel bad enough about it anyway.
It was recently pointed out to me by a straight talking family member that I'm not very patient. And I'm not. I have no problem rolling my eyes, shooting obvious glances at my watch, sighing loudly. But thats not love at all. Thats putting me first. And it's so hard to break a habit like that. I'm not saying I think I can anytime soon. But awareness is the first step in breaking a habit, right?
Love is more than just the big moments, its the small things too. The withheld sighs, the smile instead of a frown. It's making a cup of tea even though you want to leave. It's really listening to someone without just waiting till you can say your piece. It's giving up the chair on the bus, it's waking up early to make lunch for someone instead of sleeping in.
And not just to people who 'deserve' it.
All of those examples relate to my life, I bet you can think of many more related to you.
Just to be clear, I don't think we should be pushovers. But we can be assertive instead of aggressive and still be kind people.
To be honest I don't think I can ever love unconditionally, completely. No human can. Although we have good in us, we have a great skill at being insanely selfish too. But I can damn well try. And isn't that the best we can do?
(all photos link to the original source).