The beautiful thing about this world is that every living thing in it, from the earth itself to the blades of grass growing on it, responds to love.
I remember reading something along the lines above and being struck by how the statement rang. The earth is filled with living things. Our whole world is practically a living thing. And on top of the potted kitchen plants and the occasional goldfish, people are living things who respond most strongly to love, too.
Love is, after all, but the most powerful force in our world. However, it can get difficult to keep track if we are properly “loving” and valuing people the way we should.
So, how do we do this “love” thing to people anyway? I believe I can sum it up in a phrase: we invest in them.
So much of the world tells us to invest in ourselves– in making ourselves stronger, smarter, prettier, better. We spend so much of our time into our careers, finances, and our general well-being. But here’s the thing: while we are too focused and busy investing in ourselves, we can miss out on the greatest investment we could ever make. And that is our relationships with other people.
As with all investments, there are returns. As they say, true love is unconditional. But it’s also great to take note of how our investment in others changes not just those we love, but us as well:
1. We get to be better people. Investing in others means that we will need to sacrifice time, money, and energy that we could have otherwise spent investing in ourselves. This sacrifice, at the deepest level, is actually what it means to love. And when we love, we kill the selfish, insecure, and hurtful parts of ourselves. In a way, investing in people is ultimately investing in our better selves, and that’s a return that not a lot of people recognize.
2. We gain perspective on what’s most important. Investing in others often means valuing people more than what the world wants us to value. It means putting relationships over our achievements, career, our image, or our pride. Developing this value for other people sharpens our own personal compass of who we are and where we’re going. When we consciously organize our values this way, we develop a sense of what matters in this life– and it’s not the latest gadget or the Facebook likes.
3. We live life to the fullest. The best thing about consciously investing in other people is watching them grow, watching ourselves grow, and watching our relationships flourish. There’s something about taking the time of day to encourage someone, opening our doors to friends and sometimes strangers, putting our security and pride on the line that just works.Something about shared tears that makes shared laughter even more special, something about learning from everyone else that humbles and grows us. But most of all, there’s something about sharing our lives that fills our days with more abundance than we could ever hope for.
At the end of our days here on earth, when we’ve run the fleeting course that our small lives are meant to run, it is not our achievements, our looks, or our money that will surround us on our deathbeds. It’s those people. The lives we touched, the family we were born into and the one we made, the friends that we built relationships with. Everything else is just second to the joy of knowing you’ve helped make someone bloom into the kind of person they could be, and letting other people be part of your journey.
All great changes start with simple things, such as an encouraging word, a little effort in serving others, and a little more excellence poured into our everyday lives. You can expect it to be difficult, as all worthwhile endeavors are. But somewhere along the way, when we’re growing and blooming and experiencing joy even through struggle, that’s when we learn that this is the way life was meant to be lived in the first place.
Now, we can start the coming year the way we usually do; filled with promises to ourselves, for ourselves. But let’s also start 2015 with the promise of enriching our relationships with others; to give others a little boost up the ladder of our priorities, to invest time, energy, and resources in helping them on their journey. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll discover more when we lose ourselves in the beauty of a life well shared.