I read a book a long time ago called Love is a Decision. It had a significant impact on me at the time, and many of it's lessons still stick with me today. I highly recommend the book for everyone, married or not.
It's most important lesson, I believe, is in its title. That love is a decision. Not always a feeling. Many of us have people in our lives that are difficult to have relationships with, but it's important that we get along. Whether they are family, spouses of good friends, people we serve in ministry with, or people we work with, we have to choose to behave lovingly toward them all. Why? Because that's what God does for us. Even with all of our bad choices and behavior, he still chooses to love us. And we must live by his example the best we can.
Sometimes I think the hardest time to make this decision for love is when it's your immediate family. The ones you interact with everyday. I think we have different expectations for them. Emotions run strong in a home, deep love, or deep hurt. Spike Jones once sang, "You always hurt the one you love." Why is that, do you ever wonder? There are things I see my family doing to each other that they'd never do to a co-worker or classmate. Why does it seem to be ok to treat each other so poorly sometimes?
I think the biggest reason that we treat our family different is because we know (or think) they will still love us. We can be our true selves, show our raw emotions whether angry or joyful, and we will still love each other. But I think we need to be very careful and much more aware of how we are treating the ones we love most. We have a responsibility to take care of each other. And that includes emotional well-being.
We have a rule in our house: "Never treat your friends better than you treat your [sister, mother, father]." I try to explain to my daughters that while friends are important, and we may be close to them and have the same ones for a long time, our loyalty should always be with family. Friends may come and go but sisters are forever.
Even God has some rules regarding how family should treat each other:
Ephesians 6:1-3 "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.
1 Timothy 5:8 "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
God created the bonds of family to be different than the bonds of friendship. It is possible to love friends as though they were related. I have some friends I'm closer to than I've ever been close to some family members. But in the end, the worst can happen and for some reason the connection we have to family is never lost (even if years go by without seeing or speaking to each other). But when something breaks a friendship, we sometimes lose track of those we once loved as brothers and sisters.
Whether it's family, friend, co-worker, or a homeless person you pass every morning on the way to work, I challenge you all to choose love. Turn away from the hurtful words and actions that only destroy people. Love is the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit.