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Valentine's Day was established by Pope Gelasius in 500 A.D. and was named after one or more of the early Christian martyr's named "Valentine." The day has become one where those in love express that love to one another in a variety of forms.

However, as with much in our society, we have watered down our concept of love. Sadly, we have too often made it into something thin, shallow and anemic. In doing so, we have rendered it manageable, riskless and safe. We have marginalized it to the point that it no longer requires sacrifice, it does not demand any degree of real commitment, and it can be broken without a whole lot of damage being done to anyone in the breaking.

When we cheapen love like that, we also diminish it in ways and in places that we don't often think about. It takes love to do a whole lot of things. One of those things that takes a genuine, bedrock kind of love to actually do is loving our enemies. Not many of us find it easy doing that. It's easy to love those that are lovable or love us back. There's not a whole lot of effort in loving someone who's going to respond in some positive or like manner. However, it's a whole lot harder to love those who don't love us or don't reciprocate our love. It seems that love is put to the acid test in situations where it will be given to someone who will likely disregard it or outright pummel it.

However, what might be most revealing and therefore the most interesting in all of this is that our choice to love or not to love these kinds of people says volumes about who we are. Those choices display the core of our truest character. And what those choices reveal might be the most intriguing thing of all. 

Loving Our Enemies - Seeing Ourselves in Our Response
We get attacked. That's a reality of life. Somewhere, at some time, someone is going to come after us. We've going to get cut, clobbered or end up with an assorted collection of contusions. Sometimes the intentions of those that hurt us are misdirected, and at other times they're completely intentional. Sometimes the actions of others are the stuff of mindless impulse and therefore kind of shot-gun in their intention. At other times the actions of others are completely malicious, being viciously planned and savagely implemented. There are times when the actions of others are based on an errant understanding of events or circumstances, being tragic mistakes and gross misfires. At others times the intent is simply to hurt us so the nature of the precipitating event is altogether irrelevant, other than being a product of cruelty and by-product of selfishness.

When these things happen, we naturally respond. Yet, what does our response say?

What Does Our Response Tell Us?
Obviously we respond. We respond to a whole bunch of things in a whole bunch of ways. Oddly, our response is often not analyzed because we assume it to be normal or appropriate to respond given whatever it is that we're responding to. If we do in fact analyze our response, it's often because we thought that our response was too pensive and tentative, or we thought it was a bit too robust and overwhelming.

In other situations, we might think that our response was completely misdirected or somehow inappropriate given the situation. Then there are the situations where we feel that we shouldn't have responded at all when we did in fact respond, or we chose not to respond when we should have. These kinds of thought processes typically shape any analysis we have about our response.

In whatever way we respond, we respond. Whether that's a response that's thought out or thoughtless, we respond. Our focus then tends to be solely on our response; whether it's a good response, a bad response, or a rather irrelevant response. If we swish our response around in washbasin of our conscience does it come out looking pretty clean, or was it really pretty dirty? We crunch the facts and massage the feelings as a means of getting a good feel for what we did. It seems that we tend to specifically analyze our response instead of analyzing what our response says about us.

There's this crafting, managing and executing of our response, but really nothing about what the response tells us about us. We might be wise to quit looking solely at the response, turn things over on their backside, and ask what our response says about us. What does the intensity and direction and flavor of our response suggest about our biases, our beliefs, our personality, our life orientation, our balance or imbalance, or a million other things about us?

Our responses are the fingerprint of our heart and the DNA of our conscience. If we peer into the mirrored reflection of our response we will see ourselves looking back. Therefore, it might be good to take a good long look in the mirror of our responses, and it might be good to prepare ourselves for a less than savory reflection.

What Our Responses Reveal
Often our responses reflect our deep-seated, gnawing insecurities. In some instances those insecurities result in a response that's wildly disproportionate and entirely over the top. Our insecurities cause us to retaliate in outrageously greater proportions to whatever it was that came at us. In responding like that, we insure that whatever or whoever's attacked us is sufficiently repelled by us, or better yet, they're outright annihilated altogether. Sometimes an excessive response is the way we get the other person to think twice about messing with us again. At other times we don't respond at all, fearing that if we do we're likely to incur further attacks or more abuse. So we run and we hide. Whatever our response, responding out of our insecurities will insure a bad one.

Sometimes our responses are entirely misdirected, misallocated and misapplied; in other words it's all reflex and no reflection. We haven't quite learned yet that pulling the trigger prematurely may pull everything right down on our heads. We may not have the maturity to fully understand exactly what happened to us and why it happened to us. We may not have developed the depth of intellect, insight and the balance of maturity in order to render a response that's appropriate to the offense.

Or, we may simply take a chainsaw sort of approach thinking that the nature of the response is irrelevant so we just have at it, rather than taking scalpel in hand and doing something a bit more clean and surgical. So, if our response is rather wild and blithering, we might be immature.

We do tend to have a prickly kind of impatience where we quickly find ourselves on pins and needle if things don't roll exactly like we want them to. Impatience simply means that we want some sort of result in the 'right now.' Impatience means that we forfeit thinking in favor of doing the deed so that the deed can get done. We forfeit gathering data in favor of dueling it out. We strike out instead of strategize. We cut people to the quick instead of taking time to quietly contemplate. We retaliate instead of reflect, and we burn hot in the flames of revenge rather than cool our heels in the pool of patience. Our impatience drives us to an immediate, reflexive action that will likely serve to enflame a situation that we're attempting to douse. If our response is knee-jerk, we're likely impatient.

Many times our response is deliberately directed to meet our need or serve our agenda. In the fuming mindset of retaliation we take little if any time to consider the collateral damage of our choices. Collateral damage is a concept that's solely related to the impact that our choices have on others. In most cases, we're not all that much concerned with anybody else.

Correspondingly, the bigger the offense against us, the more we narrow down our response until the focus of our response is nothing more and nothing less than 'us' based. If we ignorantly act to solely serve our agenda, we're simply slogging around in the egocentric and brackish backwaters of selfishness. Any response that comes out of that kind of cesspool will be vulgarly irresponsible. If our actions are all about self-preservation and they spurn the common good, we're selfish. If it's only about us then it's not about anything good.

Moral Shallowness
Most of the time, our responses will challenge our ethics and our morals. When we respond to an attack, the most devastating, brutal and agonizing responses are likely unethical. If we really want to ravage someone and leave the landscape of their lives scorched and barren, that action will probably be immoral or so close to immoral that we'd be stupid to engage it.

If we really want to wail on somebody and drive them so far into the ground that they'll never crawl out, we'll probably have to stuff our ethics, turn a blind eye and live with the guilt of it all for the rest of our lives. Morality is easily lost in the red-hot heat of hatred and the scorching coals of revenge. If morals aren't guiding our actions, our actions will be misguided.

What Our Responses Say About Us
Don't just respond, even though that's the easy thing to do. Ask what your response says about you. Let your responses cause you to respond to you. Ask the hard questions. Do the tough analysis. Face yourself without the nip and tuck of justification, and without the Botox of rationalization. You will be a better person who leaves behind a better world even when that world attacks you.

Copyright © Craig D. Lounsbrough
M.Div., Licensed Professional Counselor
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Craig D. Lounsbrough
Web site: Craig Lounsbrough Professional Counselor
Craig has over ten years experience in pastoral ministry. He has served as youth pastor, associate pastor and senior pastor in churches both in Colorado and California. In these positions he has also provided leadership in both state and national denominational ministries. Furthermore, he has written for a wide variety of magazines and has published four books. He also hosted a Christian radio ministry for two years. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and Certified Professional Life Coach.

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