COVID-19. Racism. Violence. Political posturing. Selfishness. Hate. Just some of the negativity in our world right now. Yuck.
As God’s people, we need to do better. Let’s try these five daily habits to better love God and others.
Our ability to patiently listen to others? Habit. Our willingness to feel empathy? Habit. Our consistent focus on gratitude? Habit. We each must develop daily habits that build up our world, not tear it down. Our habits should reflect the love and grace of Jesus.
Habit 1: Start Your Day With “Thanks, God!”
This small action reminds us to keep an “attitude of gratitude.” Even when life hurts, there is always something to be grateful for. So build the daily habit of looking at life with gratitude. List things that are good about the world; things that make you feel good and hopeful. Perhaps it’s butterflies … or that you got new glasses …. or that you love summer watermelon. Train your brain to enjoy the feeling of feeling grateful. Default to gratitude instead of complaining.
Tip: When some smokers attempt to quit, they slip a rubber band around their wrist. As they experience tobacco cravings, they snap the rubber band against their skin to redirect their thoughts. What can you use to “snap” your brain into gratitude?
Habit 2: Daily Recite Scripture
Let’s get real and admit that most of us don’t have a daily habit of speaking God’s Word out loud, much less daily cracking open our Bibles. But we’re missing out by not doing both. For these two reasons: the Bible tells us that God’s power is unleashed when we speak Scripture, and research shows that the words we say change our brain, and thus how we feel and act.
We speak defeat, we feel defeated. We speak hate, we feel hatred. We complain, we feel ungrateful. But speaking God’s Word restores our hope and trust in His power and loving providence. We can rest in the truth that He’s in control, despite our circumstances.
Habit 3: Focus on Being Fruity
God’s Word calls us to be fruity. The fruit of the Spirit includes kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, patience, self-control, hope, peace, and love. Each attribute represents an aspect of God’s nature. So when we offer these to others, we reflect Him to the world. Is this easy with our easily offended egos? Nope. But we must press on, with His help, because He asks us to.
Being fruity takes WORK. It requires that we commit to putting ourselves second, so that God can move through us to soften the world. This only gets easier when we make it a daily habit. Imagine getting so self-discipled at being fruity that it’s no longer a struggle! Patience? No problem. Kindness? Small potatoes. Gentleness? Easy-peasy. Love? So much oozes out of us that people feel it through our words and actions.
Habit 4: Own Your Responses
A stranger belittles you on Facebook, and you respond with an equally unkind zinger. Your husband bails on a promise, and you carry a grudge. You have a fight with a close friend, and you refuse to be the first to reconcile. The fruit you resemble? A prickly pear.
God reminds us to be fruity because He understands that our pride so easily sidetracks us from offering love. That’s why His Word puts it plainly: our two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. Loving others (sometimes even liking others) requires that we see them as God sees them: valuable, important, cherished, and loved. Even when we don’t agree with or understand their actions. (And let’s not forget that God always see us through this lens of amazing grace, even when we mess up.)
Because our brain happily believes what we tell it, we need to be careful to feed it truth. If we tell our brain that “x” people are selfish, “y” people are morons, and “z” people are racist, our brain will use those filters to validate that we’re right. But what happens when we feed our brains untruths? Look around!
The fruit of the Spirit challenges us to be open to others, not closed. To be patient, not defensive. To be empathetic, not quick to judge. We must continually ask ourselves if we’re looking at others through wrong filters that we have constructed from our personal pain and biases. Just because we think we’re right doesn’t necessarily mean that we are.
Habit 5: Commit to Becoming Mature
We dish out what we’re full of — but we can’t offer what we don’t possess. Where we carry wounds, we have to put in the work of healing to do better. Check out our Resolution Movement, which can help. Growth is hard. It’s much easier to just slide by or give up. But our world is in so much pain and upheaval because too many of us aren’t being intentional about developing the habit of being fruity. If we want a world strengthened by kindness, patience, joy, love, and self-control, we have to look like Jesus. WWJD? He’d produce such beautiful fruit that Pinterest fans would drool.
Some of our habits we set with intention. But many of them we simply slip into because they’re easy, comfortable, and let us get away without maturing or committing to sacrificial living. But a habit that doesn’t produce our best needs to go. The world needs our best too much for us to not develop it.
A quote taped to my fridge is 1000 percent truth: “You are not the highest version of yourself that you can imagine. You are the lowest version of what you will accept.” I don’t know who authored the quote, but it was likely a wise person who also is quite fruity. God calls us to reflect Him well to the world. Too much is at stake for us to be lazy. In John 15:8, Jesus says, “My father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.”