A while back, I made it a goal to "Love the crap out of everyone and everything." Why did I set this goal? Because I felt like I needed more love in my life, and in order to receive love, we need to give it to others. Dont' get me wrong -- I have many loving, wonderful relationships with the people in my life. But I wanted to have and give even more love, to stretch beyond just my immediate loving community of close friends and family, and I felt that my life would change for the better if I made more of an effort to do so. Here are a few things I've learned from my efforts to love the crap out of everyone and everything.
It's easy to love the loveable. There are people who are just easy to love. They are kind, they smile, they greet you with a warm embrace and a "How nice to see you!" These loveable people make you feel like you're the best friend in the world to them, but the truth is, they're that way with everyone. They have a gift for making everyone feel special, loved and needed. Most of the time, we give our love to the loveable ones, the friends and family members who reciprocate our gestures of kindness and reach out to show love and concern for us. Step one: Love people who love me back. Check. Easy. Done and done.
It's hard to love the less loveables. There are also people who are not so easy to love. These are the people who don't smile at you right away. They may not even acknowledge that you walked into the room. They like to argue with you about anything and everything. Maybe they say they will pick you up at a certain time, but you can plan on it being at least 30 minutes later than that. They might tease you, annoy you, frustrate you and challenge you, but they still need your love. In fact, they need it more than the loveable ones do. It's important to love the crap out of everyone, including those who try your patience. This is where it starts to get real, people.
It's okay to fake it til you make it. My son decided recently that his response to everything was going to be, "That's so great! I love that!" If someone told him they just got a new job, but he was still trying to find work, his response was, "That's great! Good for you! I love that!" If his car broke down for the third time that month, his response: "This is great! I love taking my car to the shop! It's going to run even better after this!" Even when he felt differently on the inside, saying the words "I love that" helped empower him to see the situation in a new way, and to focus on feeling positive instead of negative.
Everyone's doing the best they can. Recently, someone I look up to said and did some things that caused me to feel let down and disappointed in him. I thought he should know better, and that he should be a better example to me and others. But once I got over the initial hurt, I realized that he was only doing what he thought was best. His situation, opinions, and thought processes are different than mine, and I needed to let it go and just send him love.
When a friend unknowingly hurts your feelings, your spouse forgets to pick up his socks, or your neighbor seems to ignore you when you pass by, remember that they really are doing the best they can. Not everyone has had the same experiences in life that you have had. They can't crawl into your brain and see what you want, what you expect, or what you need. Trust that they are doing their best, and when they know better, they'll do better.
Keep your heart open, even when it's painful. Not long ago, I found myself in the middle of an argument between two people I love very much. I didn't want to take sides. I just wanted my two friends to work out their differences, make up, and get over it. The thought came to me that I needed to keep my heart as open as I could for both of them. If they could feel my love for them, maybe it would help them to heal and resolve their differences more quickly. Even though the riff between them was hurting me, I visualized an open conduit around my heart so that love could flow to and from all of us until the conflict was over. I found this to be a powerful experience that I can use whenever my heart wants to close off and protect itself.
Let go of expectations. Loving the crap out of everyone and everything means accepting people and situations as they are right now without expecting them to change. It's actually very freeing to know that it's not your job to fix anyone, it's not your place to set people straight, and not your responsibility to make everything okay. All you have to do is accept, understand, respect, and love others for exactly who they are. It's our imperfections, our differences, and our quirks that make life interesting. When you don't expect everyone to be exactly like you, you open yourself up to a whole new way of thinking and being. Open up your mind and your heart, and love people just as they are without any conditions.
Love begins with gratitude. The best way I have found to show love is to practice gratitude. Thank God every morning that you are alive and breathing. Thank your parents for all they did for you growing up. Thank anyone who is kind, thoughtful, or helpful to you. This is especially powerful when you are going through hard times. No matter how crappy life gets, you can always find something to be grateful for. Your heart may be hurting, you may feel beaten down, depressed, or alone. But your heart is stronger than you think, and it will make it through the painful experiences of life if you keep your heart open, let go of unrealistic expectations, give thanks in all things, and just love the crap out of life!