Almost everyone is waiting for someone to love them. I have seen this played out over and over in other people’s lives as well my own life. As an introvert and a loner, I felt as if no one ever gave me a second thought. I’d be in a group and would always feel left out because no one reached out to me or tried to include me. Bitterness settled into my heart, and I thought to myself, “Why should I care about these people? They don’t care about me.” And one of the most profound thoughts entered my mind. It was such a vivd thought that I believe it was God who said, “So what? I loved you first even while you hated me. Do the same for others!” This was such a transforming moment for me because I realized that even if no one cares about me, that’s exactly why I should care about others. I know what that pain is like, so why should I continue the cycle and make others feel the same way? As the Bible says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:8). We should love others first because God did it for us and because He commands us to.
I was recently asked, “Gil, should I say happy birthday to this girl? She didn’t say happy birthday to me so I don’t want to. But am I being petty?” These two girls were not enemies. They got along well enough, but unfortunately this kind of thinking transforms otherwise decent relationships into distant or bitter ones. This should not be! We should all suck in our pride and say happy birthday. Who knows why the girl didn’t say happy birthday? Maybe she was very busy, lost track of time, forgot, or was in an otherwise dark period in her life. Perhaps she found out 2-3 days later, but felt ashamed to offer a late happy birthday. Or worse case scenario, she just doesn’t care about you. I’d exhort you to assume the best reasons rather than the worst, however, because that’s what love and humility does. But no matter what those reasons are, you should say happy birthday because God wants you to show that you care. Even if this person hates you, perhaps you can overcome evil with good. Maybe they misunderstood you, and this one act of kindness will help create a friendship.
The same thing happened to another friend of mine who we shall name Jane. Jane was in the hospital and ended up texting a certain group of people. A girl named Jessica did not get a text, and because of this, felt offended. Jane felt a little offended that she was offended. Neither of them spoke to each other because of this, which is unfortunate because they got along very well before. If there was anyone in the right, it would be Jane. After all, Jane’s health was in severe danger and she was in intense pain. It seems unreasonable to expect her to think clearly, and it was extremely rare for her to be on the phone anyways. The group of people she did text were the ones who already texted her about her health. Jessica did not text her. But let’s defend Jessica too. Jessica perhaps assumed that Jane’s health was not good enough to text anyone, she just waited hear back. She cared, but when she found out that she was the last to know, she felt hurt. She didn’t know that the group of people Jane had texted were the ones who texted her already. She just assumed that they were the people that Jane cared the most about.
This plays out over and over in so many different scenarios, but the key problem is the same. Stop waiting on others to love you or show love for you; love them first. Jessica could have just texted Jane, and later Jane could have texted Jessica after finding out she was offended. Love is a two-way street. If you wait for the other and the other waits for you, no one could ever love each other. Friendships get destroyed and the love that was once had will be turned into a bitter poison. I think both Jane and Jessica will let go of that incident once they see each other again, but nevertheless, this could have been avoided altogether if they loved first. Yes, one could argue that Jane was in the right and I would agree, but love isn’t ultimately about who is right, it’s about doing the right thing.
I am not saying show everyone an equal amount of love. How much love you show will depend in part on how well they return that love. For example, a friend of mine used to have a group of friends that he would bring together. He would buy their food, go out of his way to give them rides, or be there if they ever had troubles. But he noticed that they would never do the same for him. They’d never invite him, initiate texts, ask how he’s doing, or offer to pay for his food. When he ended this “friendship,” they pretended to care but he insisted on ending it because their actions spoke louder than their words. I believe this was the right thing to do. You should only reserve the love of friendship to those who return it. Now Scripture does say we should love our enemies, but this just means that we would wish good for them insofar as they are human beings. That doesn’t mean you love them in the way that you love your friends. There are different kinds of love.
Here then is my advice: love other first, and see who answers. If the other answers in friendship, accept it. If the other only answers in order to exploit you, cut it off completely. Just don’t wait for people to love you first.