Something I have always loved to do is to people watch. My sister and I used to go to the mall, you know back in the 80’s when that was where everyone hung out, and we would create imaginary dialogue for the people we were watching. We would sit there with our giant 80’s hair do’s and make up hilarious stories about who they were and what was going on in their lives. At times, it would turn into a session of just making fun of everyone we saw. My sister has this wonderful, contagious laugh, and when she would start, I couldn’t contain myself. We have always loved laughing, and we had so much fun together growing up!
I know; it sounds terrible that we would sit there and just laugh at everyone and get our kicks at their expense. However, that habit has actually taught me some important concepts about people and has stimulated some intense thinking about life. I now watch people wherever I go, but with a developed sensitivity. I notice when people don’t seem happy, or when couples seem cold with each other, or when parents look majorly stressed trying to keep up with their kids. No matter what they look like on the outside, everyone has a unique story on the inside. I can sometimes see when someone has a deep, inner hurt. I hurt with them and often pray for complete strangers when I feel compelled.
As weird as that sounds, one thing I have learned is that we are all connected in some way. Each one of us was created in God’s image, whether or not we have chosen to act like it. Each one of us is so dearly loved by our Creator. Not everyone knows that, but everyone needs to know that. So, when I see people, I don’t see strangers; I see brothers and sisters who need and want to be loved and respected just as much as any of us. They may not look like me, smell like me, dress like me, talk like me, or appreciate the same music or taste in entertainment that I do. Does that make them unworthy of my care or respect? They may have a shameful past or deep secret that they wouldn’t want anyone in the world to know, but does that make them unworthy of my time or love? Does race, age, gender, lifestyle choices, or economic status determine one’s value or worthiness of my love? Is love reserved only for those who are like me? For those who have something to offer me in return? Is that even love at all?
One observation I have is that in society, people seem to constantly be in competition with each other or are fixated on doing whatever it takes to be accepted by others, regardless of cultural or class divisions. Even the non-conformists are really seeking something similar, trying to get attention with shock value. Often conversations turn into debates or arguments, with a constant need to defend oneself, or even “one-up” each other. If someone’s views are different than ours, it can get ugly! Our clothing, home decor, hair styles, vehicles, choices of entertainment, and even where we shop for groceries is largely influenced by mass popularity. I have watched people who seem to have it all together, but there is still pressure in their ranks to conform and consistently live up to the standards of their peers. What is all of this about? Why the deep-seated need to compare ourselves to others in order to affirm our worth?
It seems to me that no matter how different we all are, we each have something very much in common as well. We all crave acceptance. We all need to be valued and respected as people no matter how different our points of view. There is not one human being who doesn’t crave love. With that in mind, it makes me see people differently now. Every person I see, no matter how annoying, eccentric, or different they may seem, I see a person created by God who needs love. I don’t care what they can or can’t offer me, because it’s not about me. Let’s celebrate our differences rather than compare and rank ourselves by them. Celebrate one another’s accomplishments too, rather than being jealous. When someone does well, it does not lower your standing. Love yourself enough that you don’t have to look down on anyone else to feel good about yourself. See yourself as God sees you, and then you will be able to see others through His eyes.
When you truly love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will naturally fulfill the second command, and that is to love your neighbor as yourself. As a matter of fact, Galatians 5:14 says, “The entire law is summed up in a single command, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
There may be some who need to be written out of your story and distanced from your life. I understand that. However, use the advice in Romans 12 to help you deal with this. Don’t try to get even, but just leave it in God’s hands. He’ll take care of it for you. Instead, just forgive and move on. Read below for some of the best relationship advice you will ever find! Notice how beautiful and practical this Scripture is in The Message.
The Message (MSG)
9-10Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.
17-19Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."
20-21Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.