One of the ways I know that I genuinely love someone is the way I think about them. The Bible states that love “thinketh no evil” (I Corinthians 13:5). This means that I do not keep track of wrongs or offenses done to me. Love enables me to focus on the good, but also includes other aspects of my thinking about those around me.
It also means that I choose to think in constructive ways about them. I discovered that if I focused on a person’s intentions rather than their actions that it helped me to gain a bigger perspective and to not be so quick to criticize.
The primary emphasis of this post concerns relationships, especially within the family. I know that leaders, coaches, and business people have a responsibility to focus on the end result (production, points in a game, profit margins). God does the same, too. One day believers will be rewarded for their work for Christ and this will be determined by works (what they do), not just good intentions (I Corinthians 3:14).
However, this does not mean that leaders are not to take into account the sincere intentions of those they serve. God is mindful of my proneness to do wrong and this affects the way He views me and treats me as His child.
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14) He compares His heart to that of an earthly father that has compassion on his children, realizing their weaknesses. So, fathers ought to do this for their children as well. It’s the way a godly father sees his child.
Stephen Covey wrote, “We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and other people by their actions”. That is especially true in your family. We ought to reverse it. It will change your life and improve your relationships at home. Those around you will feel loved and cherished rather than a project which you are always trying to manage or correct.
I have learned that people that are harsh and judgmental have not been hurt deeply – or they are angry about it. Pain has a way of mellowing a person and making them more merciful.
About fifteen years ago I was in my doctor’s office with severe headaches, fatigue, and a raspy voice from sinus drainage. I had been battling allergies for a long while and they had increasingly grown worse along with the painful symptoms.
After the doctor had given me some prescriptions I confessed to him, “When I was younger and heard people complaining about allergies, I inwardly would think they were whining. Surely allergies weren’t that bad. They ought to just tough it out. Now that I am in the same place I see why it was so difficult for them”. My doctor (a believer) said, “God is trying to teach you some compassion, isn’t He?”
The cause of my indifference and lack of patience was that I had no concept of how allergies could affect a person. When I experienced the pain it changed my perspective and my attitude. A French proverb says, “Don’t find fault with what you don’t understand”. The reality is that once you experience the same type of pain your “complaining” friend has gone through, your understanding drastically expands. And when it does, so does your mercy and compassion.
It’s amazing how easy it is to criticize when we aren’t the one with the problem. One of my favorite maxims is, “Idealism increases in direct proportion to your distance from the problem”. (Read that last sentence again; it is powerful).
If you never give margin to others and do not consider their intentions (or weaknesses) when they disappoint you it has a hidden cost. The time is going to come when you are going to need mercy, but it’s going to be tough finding friends to give you some because you have burned all your bridges with your harsh judgments.
I know a preacher that was quick to mete out words of criticism to others and then he began to be criticized by some of his “friends”. He told a friend of mind, “I cannot believe how I have treated other people through the years and how much I have hurt them with my words. Now, I am on the receiving end and the pain is far deeper than I ever realized”.
It’s sad when a child grows up in a home with a father or mother that focuses solely on their behavior and performance, never considering their intentions. I believe very much in consistent, loving discipline of children in the home, but I just as much believe in mercy.
Spouses do not love each other when they keep careful score of offenses and focus on results rather than intentions. All of us forget to pick up things at the store, fail to fulfill a request, and neglect to care for something we were asked to do. The intention to help and serve was there, but something happened that kept us from caring for the need.
When this happens (and it will on a regular basis) you have a choice. Either you will focus on their intentions or their actions. Your response over time will determine the quality of your relationship with that person.
When your loved ones or friends fail to deliver do you focus solely on the lack of results or on their intentions? If you love them you will grant them margin. This is what God does for us; we should do the same for others.
The Bible teaches that God not only has mercy, but He delights in mercy – “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7:18) A godly person delights in mercy.
Real love “thinketh no evil”. (I Corinthians 13:5) Would you ask the Lord to give you His heart of mercy today and not only focus on the bottom line of performance, but also the intentions of the person that is doing the work.
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice”. (Abraham Lincoln)