281. tell me about love (part 1)
You know, it’s happened twice already. I write about some frustrating situation at work and through the process of venting on the page, I come to some epiphany that helps make sense of what I do (see blog 267 and 277). But you know, despite these new insights, somehow my coworker seems to find innovative new ways to just plain piss me off.
I don’t really want to get into the latest ways he’s been getting on my nerves. I want to delve a bit deeper into what I wrote about in my last post about work. In that entry, I talked about how I decided to try my best to treat Harold as a hard-working peer even though he’s actually a hardly-working one. And for a couple weeks, it went really well. I mean, he didn’t work any harder or faster but he seemed to be in a better mood. As for myself, because I wasn’t always scrutinizing Harold – watching him out of the corner of my eye to catalog all the ways he wasn’t working – I was able to relax as well and just do my job.
But you know, just when I think I’ve seen the limits of his poor work ethic and lack of empathy for the amount of work I put in, Harold somehow manages to find a new way to just frustrate the hell out of me.
But that’s not what I want to talk about because it’s really just more of the same ole situation.
There’s something else I’ve been thinking about. See, the reason I decided to try and treat Harold as a peer was because I took a fresh look at some of the things Jesus said in the Gospels – in particular, the bit where he talks about loving your neighbor as yourself and loving the less than perfect the way God loves us.
And the bit that’s tripping me up is that word, “love.”
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul talks about how doing what seems like holy work without love is equivalent to banging a cheap cymbal. And then he goes on to describe love in that passage you hear at so many weddings (appropriately so, I might add):
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Now if those are the elements of love then how am I doing at work with Harold?
1. patient – most of the time (1).
2. kind – try to be (1).
3. does not envy – there are times when I wish I could just sit around instead of breaking my back lifting boxes but besides that, there’s not a whole lot about Harold that I envy (1).
4. does not boast, is not proud – I sometimes complain to one of our drivers, telling him how much work I’ve done that day compared to Harold so I guess I fail on this one (0).
5. is not rude – nope, not me (1).
6. is not self-seeking – nah…although I’m hoping for a generous raise once my yearly review comes around (1).
7. not easily angered – that’s me (1).
8. keeps no record of wrongs – I try to forgive and forget but it’s hard when Harold keeps reminding me (0).
9. does not delight in evil – I don’t like evil (1).
10. rejoices with the truth – that’s why I blog (1).
11. always protects – well, I haven’t reported my complaints about Harold to my boss yet, does that count as protecting him (0)?
12. always trusts – I don’t trust Harold (0).
13. always hopes – I do hope he’ll do better (1).
14. always perseveres – well, I’m still working there…(1)
Ten out of fourteen ain’t bad right?
But here’s the thing I’ve been thinking about. Is living out the qualities of love that Paul lays out really love? I don’t think so. The qualities that Paul lists are like signposts or indicators that show that a person is motivated by love. In this way, I think it’s an all or nothing list.
Here’s what I mean. Pregnancy tests work not by going in and verifying that an egg has been fertilized and has attached itself successfully to the uterine wall, they work by detecting the chemical/hormonal changes that take place once those things have happened. In other words, the test doesn’t verify actual conception, it tests for signs that conception has occurred. Now in order to weed out false positives, the tests look for a multitude of indicators. If it doesn’t find all the right signs, it returns a negative result. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
So I picture Paul writing this letter to the Corinthians and he comes up with this list of qualities that describe someone motivated by love. This is the last thing he writes in this letter and it’s pretty long already so I’m thinking he’s not all that interested in compiling a comprehensive inventory. Instead, he highlights the sure-things, the things that have to be there if someone is truly motivated by love. So these are the essentials, the bare minimums, and like the pregnancy test, if you ain’t got all the signs, you ain’t really lovin’.
There’s another reason I know I don’t treat Harold with love. I have zero respect for the guy. I don’t know how to respect someone who consistently takes on the lightest workload possible (leaving me to do the heavy lifting), someone who doesn’t check his work (twice in the past couple months I’ve had to hunt through the shelves to find boxes that Harold scanned in wrong), someone who complains when a rush order comes in because it means he’ll have to get up out of his chair and actually do something (since I’m probably already out in the racks working on something else).
But he’s my neighbor and Jesus wants me to be Jesus to Harold.
It’s so hard to remember that Harold has been fearfully and lovingly made by God, that he is not beyond redemption. It’s so hard to look past all the sin that’s distorting the beauty God gave him. But that is my job as a christian.
I don’t know.
Tell me about love. How do I love this guy? Does going through the motions of love count for anything? What would loving Harold look like?