The cashier at the grocery store has a frown on her face. She mistakenly rings up a few of my items twice and, annoyed, voids them. "I bet this has been a long day for you," I say. "Hang in there!" She attempts a smile, and the frown softens.
As I load my purchases in the car, I remember how my teenagers often arrive home from school, throw their backpacks on the floor and slam doors as they bark a response to my questions. How often do I show understanding and patience by saying, "I bet this has been a long day for you?" How much harder it can be to show love and kindness to those who deserve it the most - our family members. And, yet, at home is where our love can make the most difference.
Although we may strive to keep the second greatest commandment as mentioned in the gospel of Mark, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," at home, family circumstances may complicate this task by fraying our nerves, overwhelming us and causing us to withhold our love from them. How can we make love the heart of our family life?
Forgiveness is a powerful manifestation of the love of Christ, and it will be easier to emulate him and love those around us if we can forgive. We may want to start with ourselves: if we accept our limitations and forgive our own shortcomings, we will be more likely to forgive our children's outbursts or our husband's impatience.
Another way to ensure love is present in our family is through humility. When we take responsibility for our bad temper, for example, which may have caused or increased contention in the family, we show our children and spouse that we love them by forgoing prideful stances and accepting our imperfect nature.
Mind your words
Harsh words have a long shelf life. They corrode our self-esteem, hurt our feelings and make us feel depressed. Try labeling behaviors and not people, reciting the names of state capitals when you are fuming at back-talk and walking away when hurtful words start galloping out of your mouth at breakneck speed.
Mind your spirit
If we daily replenish our own "spiritual bucket" by reading the scriptures and praying with a thankful heart, we will likely have the guidance we need so we can respond appropriately to the demands our family places on our time, mind and our emotions. God will sustain us regardless the situation, helping us to be compassionate, respectful, understanding and kind.
Sometimes, it can be easier to show kindness to a stressed cashier than to an ornery family member. However, love starts at home. God's love for us is infinite and all encompassing, and we show our love for him as we allow it to be the thread that holds our family together.