2020 was objectively terrible. There’s no opinion there, even people who accomplished more than they imagined know the year was terrible. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kobe Bryant, Alex Trebek, and the Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, died during a year we also lost, at the time of this blog post, 350,000 other Americans due to COVID. This year, with all of its issues and with everyone stuck indoors for most of it, has made a lot of people cynical and upset. We’ve been hoping 2021 would come and fix it all…but unless it starts fixing us I’m pretty sure rolling over the calendar isn’t going to make things better.

The Issue

The issue is how we love. We, as Americans, have been told our entire lives that if we work hard that we’ll get everything we dream of, but this year has been a stark reminder that life doesn’t work that way. Life isn’t fair, it’s not kind, and it doesn’t respect people that respect it…it’s just life. Everything we do and everything we are comes from and is affected by the people we live our lives with. So what’s the answer? How do we live a good life?

I’m a Christian. I believe that everything I read in the Bible must be true, but I also try to know why. The Bible, like almost every holy book for every major faith, has a pretty clear-cut way of living a good life: Improve yourself by seeing the attributes listed within and adding them to your life, then improve others by loving them and building them up. Why is that so hard?

It’s hard because everyone sees life differently, sees love differently, and has expectations for others that might differ from our own. I think this is most exemplified by parenting – I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that a vast majority of parents love their kids, but there are a million different parenting styles that people use to do it. Some parents are extremely involved and attached to their kids, some prefer leaving distance and allowing personal growth. Parents try to find the way to love their kids that will help them grow best, but it looks different because people see love differently.

What do we do about it?

Love isn’t anything crazy – it means we care about someone or something enough that we’ll give the relationship time and affection that we ordinarily wouldn’t otherwise. Many people see love as an emotion, but love is a choice. Loving someone means you decide, relentlessly and repeatedly, to give them your time, affection, and care, even when you don’t feel like it. Love means sacrificing for that person even if you’re not sure they’d sacrifice for you or, worse, when you know they wouldn’t. Love means the things you’re doing for that person aren’t contingent on them doing something for you in return.

The problem is many people equate real love to weakness – Why would I do something for people that wouldn’t do things for me in return? How do you not get taken advantage of, then?

The truth is if I’m really loving someone I might get taken advantage of. I’m supposed to show love to people I don’t know. I’m supposed to show love to people that are hurting. I’m supposed to show love to people I don’t agree with. I’m supposed to show love to people that are hurting me. I’m supposed to be love to people because that’s the best way to show people how to love.

The Man in the Mirror

If I want things to change, if I want things to be better, I can’t always expect other people to make it better. You can’t legislate it, you can’t expect the church to create it, and you can’t hope others will do it. Love is something I have to decide to show, and then it’s something I have to work hard to come through on.

You want the New Year to be better than the last one? Practice showing love more than you did every day. If it feels sappy it’s probably making someone else feel pretty good. Tell people how much you enjoy them. Tell people how much you care about them. Tell people how much you want them to succeed and how much you want them to be happy. The alternative is we live the same lives we lived last year, and that’s just not an option worth fighting for. I want to love people like I haven’t before, and I want to be held accountable to it.