Day 4, The Love Dare: Love Is Thoughtful

Love is thoughtful

How precious also are Your thoughts to me. . . . 
How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, 
they would outnumber the sand. —Psalm 139:17–18

Today’s Dare: Be thoughtful. Contact someone today for no specific reason to find out how they are doing, and to see if there is anything that you can do for them.

What does it really mean to be thoughtful?  It is defined as demonstrating thought or careful consideration; demonstrating kindness or consideration for others.  Seems simple enough – right?  Yet, it does appear that this is an area where many of us fall short.  Every day life tends to consume us, whether it is our job, the kids, our friends or even the bus driver.  We just don’t have time to really think about what it means to be thoughtful. 

When was the last time that you did something for someone else with no regard to self?  Just sitting down and listening to them tell you all about their hectic day. We flawed humans have some peculiar ways of expressing ourselves, and often it is not in the most thoughtful or sane way. When we are thoughtful, it opens up positive doors of communication and we are able to bridge the gaps in our relationships by just being considerate of our partners. 

We all struggle with how to really show the people in our lives that we love them, how about starting at just being thoughtful and listening without regard to what is brewing in our own mind.

Love thinks. It’s not a mindless feeling that rides on waves of emotion and falls asleep mentally. It keeps busy in thought, knowing that loving thoughts precede loving actions.

When you first fall in love, being thoughtful comes quite naturally. You spend hours dreaming of what your loved one looks like, wondering what he or she was doing, rehearsing impressive things to say, then enjoying sweet memories of the time you spend together. You honestly confess, “I can’t stop thinking about you.”
But for most people, slowly things begin to change.  Sparks of romance slowly burn into grey embers, and the motivation for thoughtfulness cools. You drift into focusing on your job, your friends, your problems, your personal desires, yourself. After a while, you unintentionally begin to ignore the needs of your mate.

But the fact that life has added another person or people to your universe does not change. Therefore, if your thinking doesn’t mature enough to constantly include this person or people, you catch yourself being surprised rather than being thoughtful.

If you don’t learn to be thoughtful, you end up regretting missed opportunities to demonstrate love. Thoughtlessness is a silent enemy to any loving relationship.

Let’s be honest. Men struggle with thoughtfulness more than women. A man can focus like a laser on one thing and forget the rest of the world. Whereas this can benefit him in that one arena, it can make him overlook other things that need his attention.

A woman, on the other hand, is more multi-conscious, able to maintain an amazing awareness of many factors at once. She can talk on the phone, cook, know where the kids are in the house, and wonder why her husband isn’t helping . . . all simultaneously. Adding to this, a woman also thinks relationally. When she works on something, she is cognizant of all the people who are somehow connected to it. Both of these tendencies are examples of how God designed women to complete their men. As God said at creation, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). But these differences also create opportunities for misunderstanding.

Men, for example, tend to think in headlines and say exactly what they mean. Not much is needed to understand the message. His words are more literal and shouldn’t be overanalyzed. But women think and speak between the lines. They tend to hint. A man often has to listen for what is implied if he wants to get the full meaning.

Love requires thoughtfulness—the kind that builds bridges through the constructive combination of patience, kindness, and selflessness. Love teaches you how to meet in the middle, to respect and appreciate how the next person uniquely thinks.

When was the last time you spent a few minutes thinking about how you could better understand and demonstrate love to someone else? What immediate need can you meet?

 Love actively thinks about another person’s needs. This is easy during the exciting courtship stage of a romantic relationship or when you’ve just started to build a new friendship. But after a while, we get busy, caught up in ourselves, and the loved ones dearest to us can get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. But how amazing is it that the God of this universe thinks about US every single moment?  The Psalmist is simply blown away by this realization and writes in Psalm 8:4 “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” God’s thoughts about us outnumber even the sand, the Psalmist tells us! Therefore, our thoughts about His people ought to be the same.

 Thoughtfulness is a proactive act of love and lets another person know that they matter to you.

Day 3, The Love Dare: Love Is Not Selfish

Love is not selfish

 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; 
give preference to one another in honor. —Romans 12:10

Today’s dare involves trying to be unselfish, and I didn’t feel that I really had a good chance to be unselfish.  Selfishness is definitely something that I struggle with.  It has been an uphill battle for quite some time for me; as much as I love taking care of everyone and everything around me–especially my friends and family–I have some pretty distinctly selfish wants.  I’ve been trying really hard over the past few months to move away from my more selfish desires and replace them with the servant’s heart that I should have, and that I know I have buried in me somewhere.  It’s hard, but progress is being made.  After all I can’t be acting out of real love and selfishness at the same time.”

Part of being unselfish for me is to think more of the stresses and demands placed on others and trying to relieve these, instead of thinking of the stresses and demands that others are placing on me.
We live in a world that is enamored with “self.” The culture around us teaches us to focus on our appearance, feelings, and personal desires as the top priority. The goal, it seems, is to chase the highest level of happiness possible. The danger from this kind of thinking, however, becomes painfully apparent once inside any relationship.

If there were ever a word that basically means the opposite of love, it is selfishness. Unfortunately it is something that is ingrained into every person from birth. You can see it in the way young children act, and often in the way adults mistreat one another. Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves.
Why do we have such low standards for ourselves but high expectations for others? The answer is a painful pill to swallow. We are all selfish.

When we put our interests, desires, and priorities in front of our loved ones, that’s a sign of selfishness. When a wife constantly complains about the time and energy she spends meeting the needs of her husband, that’s a sign of selfishness. But love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). True love looks for ways to say “yes.” One ironic aspect of selfishness is that even generous actions can be selfish if the motive is to gain bragging rights or receive a reward. If you do even a good thing to deceitfully manipulate another person, you are still being selfish. The bottom line is that you either make decisions out of love for others or love for yourself.

Love also leads to inner joy. When you prioritize the well-being of others, there is a resulting fulfillment that cannot be duplicated by selfish actions. This is a benefit that God created and reserves for those who genuinely demonstrate love. The truth is, when you relinquish your rights for the sake of others, you get a chance to lose yourself to the greater purpose of Love.

Whether we like it or not, we have a reputation in the eyes of those around us, especially in the eyes of our loved ones. But is it a loving reputation? Remember, they also have the challenge of loving a selfish person. So determine to be the first to demonstrate real love to them, with your eyes wide open. And when all is said and done, you’ll be more fulfilled.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).