L is for Love

Of course--L is for love! Unfortunately, the English language is woefully lacking when it comes to terms for love. Think about it: how many times have you had to explain what kind of love you're talking about? "Well, I don't love him like that." "I love her like a sister." Then there's all of the very-different things and people that we talk about loving. "I love chocolate." "I love music." "I love grace." And that most powerful one of all: "I love you."

Clearly, the kind of love in each of these scenarios is unique. But we don't have many appropriate substitutes for the word "love" to denote each kind. We could learn something about this from the ancient Greeks. They had different words for the different types of love. Incidentally, growing up, I heard about these different Greek words for love in many a church sermon. But not wanting to rely on memory, I did a little research...and encountered somewhat-varying definitions of a couple of them. But the one generally considered to be the highest form is agápe, the unconditional commitment to the loved one, putting the loved one's interests above one's own.

The definitions of agápe I saw in my research did include some measure of affection, but I've always thought of it as a commitment to treat the other person as they deserve to be treated...even when you don't feel like it. As I've said before, loving from the inside out is not always easy. We're not always gonna feel like it. Being caught up in our own lives, being locked into our own viewpoint, judging people...those things are all too easy. The question becomes whether we're gonna act out of that or out of the better angels of our nature. We won't always get it right, but we can always aspire to ever-greater levels of depth and kindness. The world certainly could stand to be a truly kinder and gentler place.

K is for Kindness

This is a horizontally flipped version of the original,
which can be found here.
Like acceptance and intention, you can't love from the inside out without kindness. And really, doesn't everyone want to be treated with kindness? I can't imagine anyone saying, "I really hope people will be mean to me today." And those who've been judged or otherwise mistreated based on their appearance may be especially craving a kind word, a gracious response, an interaction that shows that they're valued--not in spite of their appearance, but really without regard to it. Because that will be an indication that they're being treated as a person--not as a commodity.

J is for Joy

This photo has been cropped from the original, which can be found here.
One time, after Ron (see "About This Blog," left) passed away, I met a new (to me) coworker who, due to his size, reminded me of Ron. Fortunately, it's rare that I encounter people who are that large. And that's fortunate not just because it's a trigger every time I do.

I remember interacting with him, because it may have been the first time in my life (except for Ron, of course) that I treated an obese person as a person. Really, fully knowing in my mind that I was looking past the exterior. Looking into his eyes...instead of at his size.

I will never forget how good that felt.

In what ways might you be able to experience the joy of relating to others more deeply? Have you already started to do so? If so, what was your experience like? I'd love to hear your stories.

I is for Intention

Loving from the inside out is nothing without intention. Because we have to decide (intend) to love others--or  even just to treat others, depending on the situation--based on their humanity and not on their appearance. It's not always easy. As committed to this as I am, I still catch myself sometimes, reacting, even if only in my head, to others' appearance as if it represents the totality of who they are. Maybe it's all the conditioning...I mean, before I met Ron (see "About This Blog," left), I'd had 35-plus years of American culture (and independent fundamental Baptist subculture...which didn't help anything) telling me how much appearance mattered. It's not like a person overcomes that much conditioning in a day.

But...I press on. Nothing will deter me. I don't believe appearance is completely unimportant, but it's definitely not the most important thing about anyone. I have decided: I will continue to push past that conditioning, past others' exteriors...to find out who they are where it matters: in their heart.

Returning to the [No-Longer-April] A to Z Challenge

In case you haven't noticed...I didn't exactly finish the A to Z challenge within the month of April. I had intended to, but I underestimated how much of my time and energy Camp Widow would take up. And even when it was over, I just didn't have any inspiration for awhile.

But I want to finish the Loving From the Inside Out alphabet. So, while I can't predict how quickly the remaining 18 posts will come out, I can predict that they will. "I" is up next...stay tuned.

H is for Heart

H is for Heart...of course! Was there every any doubt? ;) There are many senses of the word "heart." When it comes to loving from the inside out, it naturally is about what's at the core of a person--their intellect, their emotions, their personality--their essential character...and relating to them on that basis. It does others' hearts good when you treat them that way, and, I can tell you from experience, it can do your heart good too. (More on that in a future post. Update: Here is that post.)

source: istockphoto.com
But I want to talk too about the literal sense of "heart"--the one beating inside your chest. It was a heart attack that killed Ron (see "About This Blog," left). Now, the autopsy said that was caused by his obesity, and of course, I have a hard time disputing that. In any case, Ron did not get the kind of medical help that he needed. He was trying to lose weight (for my sake), but, tragically, it was too little, too late.

So, I beg of you: Please, take care of yourself. If not for your own sake, then at least for the sake of those who love you. Granted, doing so won't guarantee you long life or even continued life at all. We could all go at any second. But if you do take care of yourself, then at least those who love you won't have that as one more reason to be angry with you when you're gone.

G is for Growth

image credit: Dani Simmonds

When we love others from the inside out, we grow as human beings; we become deeper people. It's one way we can focus on what's most important in life. We can succumb to the more shallow instincts of our nature and to the prevailing influences of our culture, or we can choose to view others as full, nuanced people and treat them with the respect they inherently deserve; it's up to us. Is it always easy? Certainly not. But we can reap many rewards when we do, and personal growth is certainly one of them.