This post is for everyone, not just Christians. And do not worry – I’m not getting preachy at all. It’s an honest musing on what 1 Corinthians 13 and the word love really means to me and in our world today.
1 Corinthians 13 (1Cor13) is the #1 Bible verse that’s read at weddings… for obvious reasons. We had our pastor read it at Mamma Fortitude’s funeral because she had so much love in her heart. It’s one of these verses that even if you aren’t a Christian, you probably know some of it or are at least familiar with it.
So what does 1Cor13 mean today? Here’s my opinion.
1 Corinthians 13
Let’s first re-read the words of the Apostle Paul…
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
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My Experience with Hate
I think to understand my opinion it’s best to understand my background and journey.
I was bullied by several boys from kindergarten through my senior year in high school. That’s 13 years of bullying. I have red hair and a quirky personality and was just a wee bit different than the rest of the kids… enough to be a target. Those childhood scars ran deep.
Fast forward as an adult, for 10 years, I was on the receiving end of a lot of hate from a family member because of a decision she didn’t agree with.
The last incident was when I was discriminated against at work because I was having a health crisis from my autoimmune disease. No one in the organization stepped up to help me. Not HR. Not the EEO office. Certainly not my manager. My co-workers were supportive, but they were not in a position to make a difference. I was forced to resign a 6-figure income in the middle of a health crisis.
This is obviously just a snapshot of some hatred that I experienced throughout my life.
But the pain was very real.
And the anger.
And the hurt.
And the betrayal.
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What I Learned About Love
After being on the receiving end of being bullied, hated, and discriminated against, it was easy to feel anger, betrayal, disappointment, injustice and hurt. I’m also super high on the empath scale so I take these attacks very personally.
Yes and yes and yes to all of the above.
I am not a perfect person. I didn’t always respond in love or kindness. There were too many times to count that I responded with equal darkness in my heart. It’s a natural and ugly reaction. Guilty as charged.
I learned that when you are hurting, the primal instinct is to hurt others. Because that’s what I wanted to do.
Over the years, I made a conscious effort to try and change. I dug more into my faith and prayer and Bible study. I started meditating. I started a gratitude practice. I learned EFT Tapping. I tried to examine my heart and get to the root cause.
Sometimes, the hurt was so bad, I couldn’t even ask God to give me a forgiving heart. It was too closed off for that. I had to start by asking Him to open it up to more love a little bit at a time.
Over time, I learned that the power of God’s forgiveness is powerful. Not just God’s forgiveness of my own sins, but God healing my heart and helping me to forgive those who wronged me in the past.
Once that forgiveness washed over me, it’s a beautiful place to be in. Forgiveness isn’t about letting the offenders off the hook, it’s about changing my own heart to accept love and kindness.
I’m not perfect. I still get upset. But it’s different now. And here’s why…
What 1 Corinthians 13 Means (to me) Today
The goal with what I’m about to say is not to compare myself to anyone who has experienced great injustice. I don’t know nor will ever know what it’s like to be a person of color, or gay, or an immigrant, or any other population that has been on the receiving end of mass levels of hate, discrimination, and injustice. It’s not to get political or divisive. It’s to encourage inner reflection and change.
What I do know from my own personal experience of being on the receiving end of hate is this…
People express anger because they are hurting.
And they are experiencing that much hurt probably not from one incident, but from many stacked on top of each other. And not having a voice while being on the receiving end of that hurt. And those who have hurt them are probably hurting themselves.
It’s a cycle that can only be stopped with love.
If you encounter someone who is angry, instead of rushing to judgment or being a clanging cymbal, stop and ask why.
Why is this person angry? Why is this person hurting? And listen. With your whole heart. Without judgment. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love protects. Love perseveres. Love does not dishonor others.
If it’s you who is the person who is angry, stop and ask why and be honest with yourself. Love is not proud. Love rejoices in the truth. Love is patient. Love is kind.
Give yourself grace.
Give the other person grace.
Change the path.
Change your reaction.
Change the outcome.
Love always hopes.
Love never fails.
Faith, hope, and love will remain.
But the greatest of these is love.
Your Next Step…
Love, hugs, and the greatest of these is love.
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