Saturday, March 06, 2010

Best possible

Strive to love your neighbor actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbor, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. – Fyodor Dostoyevski

I like Dostoyevski's admonition here that we should strive for perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of our neighbor. One way to define love others is to choose to view others in the best possible light. In fact, the way of love -- of perfect self-forgetfulness -- is the way of the cross.

If everyone would choose to see others in the best possible light, the world would indeed be a lovelier place to live in. Of course, it is no easy task to be so intentional about loving others. Sometimes, we just don't feel like loving others; we're tired, we're stressed or we're disinterested. We tell ourselves, "Well, no one loves me, why should I love them?" Or, "I'm sick to death of all these people whose egos are so fragile that I have to constantly be falling all other them, gushing compliments left and right."

But I digress. The original thought was to choose to see people in the best possible light. That means I don't try to guess people's motives or intentions. I don't examine remarks to death. I don't try to assign meaning where there simply isn't any. Instead, believing people to be worthy of love and valuable in my eyes, I can't help but see them in the best possible light.

Choosing love in all situations is related to living a righteous life -- being in right relationship with God, with one another and with ourselves.

I will speak here to the second point. Being in right relationship with others definitely relates back to seeing others in the best possible light. Here's the thing, though. It is not reciprocal. Sometimes people don't choose to see me in the best possible light. And sometimes I can be very thin-skinned about it. In fact, in the absence of reciprocity, I tend to react with, "all bets are off" and believe this means I am free to treat the other person poorly. Ah, but I know this is not the way of love.

Then there's the nagging question of the boomerang. If I receive what I give and someone treats me poorly, do I need to do a reality check? Do I need to ask myself, am I getting back what I have given to others?

Now I know that if I am nice to Sally and always choose to see her in the best possible light, there is no guarantee that she will do the same. But ... someone else will. In that instance, what I have sown in my relationship with her, I am reaping in my relationship with another.

Again, I'm back to the boomerang. If I am nice to Sally but rude to Bob, maybe Steve is going to be rude to me and maybe Cathy, in Sally's place, will be nice to me. Yet I may choose to focus on Steve's treatment. I feel offended that he has treated be badly, conveniently forgetting my own shabby treatment of Bob. I reason that Steve is not deserving of my good opinion. And thus I unleash more boomerang affects.

I know, this is terribly complicated; perhaps even a bit obsessive or legalistic. Yet the bottom line is this: Be nice to Sally and think the best possible thoughts about her, no matter what. Likewise, when Steve is rude, be nice to Steve and think the best possible thought about him, no matter what.

That is choosing to love and it is a way of life that Jesus not only achieved in magnificent fashion but also required his followers to emulate.

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