Love. It’s changed my life. I hope it’s changed yours.

Looking back on my life, I can see that even though my birth mother didn’t know about my existence for very long before the abortion was forced upon her, she loved me in those early days, despite the turmoil she was going through. And even after the abortion, she carried me in her heart for decades, regretful over not being able to save my life.

After the abortion failed and I was born alive, I was blessed to have a number of nurses and medical professionals who prayed over me, who loved me and cared deeply about not only what was done to my birth mother and me, but what my future held.

My parents (adoptive) then soon entered into my life, loving and supporting me every step of the way of my life. I will never be able to thank them enough for loving me unconditionally and allowing me to learn from their example.

My husband and our children are some of the best unconditionally loving people that I could ever have hoped for in my life, and I know their love for others and God will make an impact in this world.

Of course, now I’m also blessed to have my birth mother and many of her family members in my life, as well as my birth father’s aunt and father. As much as we have all been subjected to more than our fair share of traumas and suffering throughout life, the love we have for one another shines through those experiences, through our lives.

I talk a lot about love, because I’ve been infinitely blessed by people loving me from my earliest of beginnings, and I believe that loving others is the single most important thing that you can do to have an impact in this world, but I thought it was time to have a more in-depth discussion about what it looks like to love people, including those who have harmed you or someone you love.

As Scripture reminds us:

At the HEART of the manner, though, I think it’s important to clarify that love:

-Doesn’t mean that you’re condoning someone’s behavior. You see them as a person with dignity and worth. People with inherent dignity and worth, including you and me, fall short each day in many ways. Loving someone doesn’t mean that what they did was okay, or that you support their poor choices or mistakes. It simply means that you see them in the midst of all that and love them in the face of it.

What my grandmother did to my birth mother and I is reprehensible. Yet, I don’t hold it against her. I understand how our culture affected her, how her role as a medical professional shaped her, how her wishes as a parent influenced her. She made a horrible set of decisions. I’ve made my own poor decisions at times in my life. We have that in common. Behind the hurt that she caused, I see her as a fellow human being on this journey of life, and I love her as a broken person, just as I’m a broken person who others have loved. That brings me to my next point, though.

-Doesn’t mean that you necessarily have that person in your life. Not everyone is safe to have in your life, especially if they’re abusive or they’re at risk of hurting themselves or someone else. Boundaries are important. You can love someone from afar. Thankfully, people can and do change, and there are opportunities to have people again in your life, but boundaries and clear expectations are important.

-Means that sometimes, you have to do the hard thing. “Tough love,” as my parents called it. It’s not just parents, though, who lay out boundaries and expectations, who help hold people accountable for their actions, seek help when needed, encourage change and growth, it’s all of us in many different relationships and roles.

Maybe you’ve heard this line like I have. If you really loved me, you’d….

I love people enough to hold firm on expectations they need to be met with. I love people enough to want better for them than maybe they’re in a place to want for themselves right now.

-Means that you believe people can change. You see them in their current circumstances and know that where they are now is not where they’ve always been, and not where they will likely remain. Thank God for that, right?!

Love people where they’re at. Right now. Because it can all change for you and for them in a moment’s notice. I think of that often as I see the homeless or someone pan-handling. I always wonder what led them to that place, and realize that our places could easily be swapped, with a change in life circumstances.

Instead of judging, try to empathize. To me, empathy leads to love.

I could probably go on and on about love forever. But, I’m over my word count. So, I’m going to turn it over to you. If you had to talk to someone w out what love looks like, what it entails, what would YOU say?