Columnist Father Ed Dougherty, M.M. focuses on learning to love as God loves. Photo from Shutterstock.com
Columnist Father Ed Dougherty, M.M. focuses on learning to love as God loves. Photo from Shutterstock.com

In the Beatitudes, Christ taught the disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Mt. 5:44-45). What a poignant way for Christ to explain God’s unconditional love for all people and to call his followers to emulate that love.

An old Christopher prayer card reflects this wisdom in its plea for us to grow in the love of God. It reads, “Help us to grow in Your love – a love that doesn’t gloss over failings but one that stresses the good in everyone. Then, Lord, as we increase our ability to love as Jesus did, bring us closer to the kingdom prepared for us.”

This prayer picks up on some key ways in which we can learn to love as God loves. It shows that God’s love does not ignore our failings but can also see past those failings to the good in each of us. This can help us to understand why God showers the blessings of this world on good and bad people alike. He understands our failings and wants us to repent and become better people, but he also sees our good qualities and knows that the best way for us to change is to increase in those good qualities rather than by simply harping on our faults.

This outlook can change the way we relate to other people. Only when we see the good in others can we respond to them in ways that invite them to increase those qualities. In a “Psychology Today” article titled “See the Good in Others,” neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson shows how noticing people’s positive traits can produce amazing results, but he notes that we must first understand that good intentions are often intertwined with qualities we perceive as negative. “For example,” Hanson writes, “a toddler throwing mashed potatoes wants fun, a teenager dripping attitude wants higher status, and a mate who avoids housework wants leisure.”

Hanson also shares a personal story of how he was changed when someone chose to focus on his positive attributes. He recalls always being picked last for teams in gym class as he was growing up. But when he got to college, he joined an intramural touch football team led by a quarterback who understood how to draw the best out of people. Hanson writes, “After one practice, he told me in passing, ‘You’re good and I’m going to throw to you.’ I was floored. But this was the beginning of me realizing that I was actually quite a good athlete. His recognition also made me play better which helped our team. Thirty-five years later I can still remember his comment. He had no idea of its impact, yet it was a major boost to my sense of worth. In the same way, unseen ripples spread far and wide when we see abilities in others – especially if we acknowledge them openly.”

The greater people’s faults, the more difficult it becomes to see the good in them, which is why we must practice this skill in little ways with all those we encounter. This way, we will prepare ourselves to act like Christ, even in the most challenging situations, because only when we see the good in the most hardened and challenging people will we truly love like God.  

For free copies of the Christopher News Note WHERE THERE IS HATRED, LET ME SOW LOVE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., is a member of The Christophers' board of directors.