I grew up in the Christian church. As long as I can remember, I’ve heard about God’s love, grace, and acceptance. I’ve learned that everyone is worth loving, people make mistakes, and God will forgive us if we ask. Unfortunately, it took me an embarrassingly long time to put what I knew into practice. I mistook the high standards I was raised with to mean that, in order for God’s love to extend, I needed to hold others to the same caliber. After all, I was a Christian, so this is what Christians (and good, safe people) must look like everywhere. I strived for perfection, never took the Lord’s name in vain, and enjoyed debating others about religion (even though I wasn’t educated enough to make a strong stance at the time). I justified turning my back on people because they “weren’t good enough,” and encouraged them in a critical way to be better because they made me uncomfortable in some way. It was challenging to love them and, by forfeiting the chance to do so, I was completely missing the point of love.
I’ve grown drastically in the last five years. After being an angsty teenager, rebellious (still angsty) college student, and confused (again, angsty) twenty-something, I’m able to empathize with others in a way I never thought possible. Growing as a person means being different people along the way, and subsequently gaining new perspectives in life.
Jesus never claimed love is easy. He sought out sinners and outcasts, not to simply tell them they were living in a fruitless way, but to show them the love He knew they desperately needed. He accepted them openly when society cast them aside.
John 15:12 (ESV) states, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” What parent would hold a kindergartener to the same standards of a college graduate? We are all at different learning stages at separate times. We cannot hold others to standards we have for ourselves. Likewise, we cannot judge others without revealing a part of ourselves. If you are quick to condemn someone for selfishness, materialism, or anger, aren’t you also to blame for the same or similar flaw? When we reveal what upsets us about others, we are speaking volumes about our own character. John 8:7, “And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’”
Be patient, kind, and understanding of the different paths we are pursuing in life. We are all here for a reason and we are to support one another, not cast others aside for our own comfort. Love one another, without personal agendas in tow.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned through personal growth? Have you ever found yourself understanding a situation you once condemned? Do you need to use more empathy with others? Share your story in the comments below!