My mission is to love people "from the inside out" and inspire others to do the same.

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.)

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.

F is for Focus

Sometimes it takes focus to love people from the inside out. Sometimes it takes focus to remember to treat even some strangers we encounter with respect regardless of how they present themselves. For example, at the grocery store recently, as I was looking for a checkout lane, I saw one with only one customer in it. But I almost didn't go into that lane, because that one customer was a man who, frankly, looked disgusting. His hair was very greasy and stringy. His teeth were very yellow. He seemed to be a little slow. I was about to turn away in disgust, when the thought popped into my head, "This is a person God loves; maybe I can at least find a way to be civil?" I don't often think that way, but the thought came, I acted on it, and I'm glad I did. The man didn't speak to me or anything; I don't think he even looked at me. I'm just glad I remembered and acted on the notion that just because a person doesn't "present" well does not mean that I shouldn't even be around them.

When it comes to people we know, we might have to really work to remember the good things about some of them--or even to find the good things in the first place. I mean, we all know people who just rub us the wrong way, who really get on our nerves. The better part of valor is to look for the good in them, because no one is just "one thing." Everyone has traits that are more positive and some that are less so. But do we focus only on the negative ones and not give the person a chance to prove that they are more than just that one thing that annoys us? By the way, I'm totally "preaching to myself" here. This is not something I'm particularly good at. I tend toward black-and-white thinking. I need to find ways to look for the good in others--even when it's hard to find.

How have you focused on the good, and how has it changed your life?

E is for Equality

Equality is one of the foundations of American society. It's in the one of the most well-known parts of our Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Of course, the founding fathers were focused on the political aspects of liberty when they wrote that, but think about this: can people really experience liberty fully or pursue happiness fully when they aren't being treated as equal in other areas? When strangers, peers, even so-called friends are treating them as "less than" because of some external characteristic—or for any reason really? If we truly believe all people are equal, it has to extend to all aspects of how we treat others...or we're just not being honest.

D is for Destiny

When we decide to love from the inside out, we expand our horizons. We open ourselves up to interacting with those we might not have otherwise. It can lead to our lives travelling down some pretty unexpected paths.

I certainly had no idea, back in 2003, the turn my life was about to take when I signed up for the Christian singles site where Ron (see "About This Blog," left) and I met. Sometimes I wonder whether I was "meant" to travel this road--or whether it was just something that happened. But--that touches on metaphysical questions none of us can really answer with certainty while we're still here, so I'll just leave it at that. I guess I mean "destiny" less in a "grand scheme of things" way and more in a "what your life ends up being about" way.
In any case, I've also wondered if I would do it all again even if I knew (at least, once I really started to care for Ron) what would come. And the answer is always Yes. Because, if I hadn't gone down this road, Ron might never have known the kind of love we shared. And of course, I might never have either. And I might never have come to the place of depth that my experience has taken me. (D is for depth, too!)

Do I wish all of this could have come without the pain? Of course! But, for better or worse, pain is the risk you take with love. And even with everything I've been through, I have to say, I think the risk is worth it.

C is for Courage

Image credit: ilco on
The courage to be different. The courage to go against the grain. The courage to treat others the way they deserve to be treated, even if you're pressured to do otherwise. That's the kind of courage it can take to love from the inside out. Our culture and sometimes even people in our lives don't always make it easy. 'Cause it can mean siding with the ones everyone else is shunning. The unloved, the unchosen, the  unfabulous. And when you side with can become a target too. No, this is not all sweetness and light. But for me...once I got a taste of depth, the shallow end of the pool no longer cut it.

B is for Beauty

Beauty, on Loving From the Inside Out? Yep, and I'll tell ya why. I'm on a mission to redefine what beauty means. Ask most people what they think beauty is, and they'll probably give you some version of "something that looks good, that's pleasing to the eye." And of course, our world is obsessed with physical beauty. We even have contests, euphemistically disguised as pageants, to see who the most beautiful people are. Magazines devote whole issues in some cases to show us who the most beautiful people are, not to mention the bajillion heavily-retouched, unrealistically perfect ads you have to turn past to get to the pictures of those most beautiful people. And if it's a beauty or fashion magazine, then of course all of that is surrounded by articles on how to perfect the latest beauty technique. Seems to me the message this sends, to young girls and even to still-insecure women, is: "You must change yourself to resemble as closely as possible this arbitrarily defined and impossibly narrow set of physical characteristics, or you're not beautiful." And in a culture obsessed with physical beauty, if you're not "beautiful," you're not worth anything. The havoc this wreaks on the hearts and self esteem of women breaks my heart.

But...what about Kindness, Compassion, and Selflessness? Duty, Honor, and Country? Courage, Commitment, and Sacrifice? These things are beautiful.

A mother sacrificing what she wants to do to spend time with her kids: that's beautiful. A dad spending all weekend building a treehouse for his daughter: that's beautiful. Giving back to those less fortunate. Fighting for justice in the world. The willingness to put your life on the line for your buddies and your country. These things are beautiful.

But it doesn't have to be a grand gesture to be beautiful. Being thoughtful, remembering that everyone is fighting their own battle. Looking for the beauty even when it's hard to find. Keeping a kind word at the ready. These things are also beautiful.

So...what's your favorite way to be beautiful?

A is for Acceptance

Note: This is the first in my Loving From the Inside Out Alphabet series.

Acceptance—it's really at the core of what my mission and this blog are all about: Accepting others regardless of how they appear on the outside. Accepting them instead for who they are on the inside, taking the time to get to know them before you judge them. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed that his children would "one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." With all due respect to Dr. King, I would expand that to say 'not on their appearance, period, but on the content of their character.' And even with those we encounter in passing, we can keep in mind that regardless of any "presenting" characteristic, each one we meet deserves to be treated with respect, just like we would want to be treated.

How has acceptance (or lack thereof) affected your life?

A is for Alphabet—and the A to Z Challenge

Just last night I saw a tweet with the hashtag "#atozchallenge." I had no idea what that meant, but I was curious, so I searched on the hashtag and after a few clicks, found the challenge's website. It's challenge for bloggers to create one post each to correspond to the 26 letters of the alphabet and post them on each of the 26 weekdays in April, plus the first Sunday (today). What does "corresponding to each of the 26 letters" mean? That's up to the blogger.

I've never been one for "prescribed" blogging. It has always seemed so forced to me. But as I was reading up on what the challenge was, the phrase "A is for Acceptance" popped into my head...and that quickly grew into the idea to create a "Loving From the Inside Out alphabet." And the more I thought about it, the more excited I became. So...I signed up!

You'll see what I mean by a "Loving From the Inside Out alphabet" as the posts come out. So...stay tuned!

© Loving From the Inside Out

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