According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year. The history of this day is long and its various versions disputed, but what we know for sure is this year we need one another more than ever. Beyond our global health crisis, there is a tremendous growing sense of isolation. Why don’t we use this holiday as an excuse to reach out? We need community – people in our lives and homes with which we can exchange love and friendship. This Valentine’s Day, beyond the cards and flowers, let’s give our friends and loved ones these meaningful gifts:
The benefit of the doubt. It is so hard to be misunderstood. We want our people to intuitively get us, but with different communication styles and personalities, it doesn’t always happen. When someone does or says something that doesn’t sit right, take a beat, don’t respond right away, and imagine the best about them. Proverbs 19:11 says it’s to a man’s benefit to overlook an offense.
Listen well. We have so many voices coming at us, and it can be hard to know if anyone really hears us anymore. We don’t need someone to tell us what to do, or what they would do, or even what they think about what we are doing… we need good listeners. Trauma Free World’s training teaches how listening actually heals the brain. How amazing would it be if this season was marked by how well we heard those we love
Vulnerability. A friendship or relationship can only go so far without vulnerability. When we share what we are really feeling or thinking, we create a connection that if nurtured, will lead to intimacy. Author CS Lewis says, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Regular investments of time. We make time for what we want to do. We can say we are busy, and our calendar is probably full of commitments and activities, but who we want to see, we make time for. All the more reason, as we enter this season celebrating friendship and love, that we make it a habit to audit our time and ask ourselves if the most important people are getting the lion’s share of our time?
Words of affirmation. There is a difference between flattery and encouragement. One makes the giver of words sound good, and positions them towards advantage, and the other builds up the receiver. I am asking myself if I am regularly exhorting or encouraging those I love and if they understand what I am saying is solely for their benefit? Words have the power, and I am going to be on the lookout for opportunities to say, “I appreciate when you…” “I am proud of you when…” “I love this about you…”
We have so many places we can share the love God has deposited into us. We can love our households, our friends, our extended families, our neighbors, our enemies and the least of these. As I think through the opportunities I have to put God’s love on display through my life, I am asking Him for wisdom and capacity to love well this season. I hope you’ll join me.