What Does Loving Your Neighbor Look Like?

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OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Unbeknownst to you all here (since I can blab and blab online), I have a very difficult time talking with people. I get very anxious when talking to people. I have to make myself go up to talk with my church family. I ask them how they have been, how is work going, etc. They answer my questions and then I'm all out of questions and we just look at each other and either they walk away or I do. It's really awkward and I know I should do better.

Now take my neighbors. I don't even know their names. I have no idea how to even go up to their door and invite them over for coffee to talk. In fact, I have no desire to do so. I'm so far from loving my neighbor as myself that I can say I don't even care for my neighbor. I'm not so horrid that I don't care if they live or die but even atheists feel the same way. I would rather mow their lawn or do some other job for them than to talk with them. I would be ok if they came and talked to me but I would still stumble over my words.

I think I fall into one of three categories. Some people are sincerely interested in people and love to be around them and talk to them because they care about people. Some people are egocentric and selfish and they can talk freely with people because they think everyone is dying to know what they have to say. Others are egocentric and selfish and they can't talk freely with people because they think people won't like them or be interested in speaking with them. The last two have everything to do with self. I believe I fall into the third category.

I need to learn to love others with Godly love and I don't even know how to begin to do that. What does it look like to love others as yourself? I want to get better at talking with my church family because I love them and want to show that. I want to get better at talking with my neighbors and people I come across because I want to share the Gospel with them. As I said earlier, I would much rather to jobs for people or give them money etc than to sit down and talk with them. Do any of you guys have the same problem and if so how are you working to solve this?
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I have the same "problem". I'd rather bring in the garbage can from the street than speak with my neighbor many times. I admire people who love to socialize, with me not being one of them. Now in saying this I appreciate people who are comfortable not forcing being something they are not. In other words, let those who are shy be shy for Christ's sake. A simple smile is enough many times. :)
 

PaulCLawton

Puritan Board Freshman
Your question, "What does it look like to love others as yourself?" is very broad, and I do not feel qualified to give much of an answer. In terms of the parts of your post that seem to indicate you find either beginning or continuing conversations past a certain point to be difficult, I can say one or two simple things. I am friends with a man (a fellow church member) who I think is more or less the epitome of hospitality and a very good conversationalist. He would probably think of himself as rather ordinary and probably a simple fellow, but after observing him for a long time I realized that his "secret" is that he takes genuine interest in others, and is quite satisfied to continue asking questions. Rather than ask a question and let the subject go, or say something about himself, he simply follows the trail that the other person is on, asking clarifying questions and getting them to expand on it. Eventually, if the person seems to be in need of help or guidance, he will interject with some wisdom from the Bible, or (rarely) from his own experience. This is probably what most people think they do, but he keeps going. I have realized that if I listen closely when other people speak, there will almost always be something that can be followed-up on by way of a question, and often that can be the way to lead and guide people also.
 

JennyGeddes

Puritan Board Freshman
If you would literally not mind mowing their lawn, then I suggest that is what you do. Weed a flower bed or two, sweep a driveway, haul trash cans back in, etc. maybe they don’t even have to know it’s you.
 

LarryCook

Puritan Board Freshman
"I need to learn..."

What a great (and necessary) starting point from which to move foward. The next step is to gain the faith needed to believe that God will equip you with wisdom sufficient to guide you as you seek to learn how to love this neighbor.

In answer to your post's title, I would only say that loving your neighbor is not exclusively, or even inclusively, a matter of being able to comfortably and confidently converse with them. Your willing sacrifice for the good of others can take many different forms that don't involve or require this ability. The main point is that it seems God put you next door to them and has now put a desire in your heart to learn how to show them the love that He has shown you.

Maybe you could start by putting together a prayer portfolio. Begin with the basics of name(s), employment situation, and transportation needs/resources. To these, add anything else that you know or learn about them. Ask God to help you to see where prayer is needed. The possibilities are unlimited, and might include health, relationships, finances, and emotional challenges. Of course the most important thing to pray for is the salvation of their souls.

How all of this might pan out is anyone's (except God who knows for sure) guess. But I would be surprised if God at some point didn't open a door of opportunity allowing you to move beyond prayer.

Hope this helps :)
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Wow, Sarah. It sounds like I'd love to chat with you beyond a keyboard. We have a lot in common.

I'm an introvert who, by nature, would rather replace a toilet than chitchat. But my work puts me in the place of talking with all kinds of people all day long. What overcomes my natural inclination is (1) to really listen to the one you are talking with and engage with what they say and (2) actively disregard "what other people might think of you" thoughts while talking.

I think you have a lot of self-awareness in identifying yourself with the third category:

Others are egocentric and selfish and they can't talk freely with people because they think people won't like them or be interested in speaking with them.

I'm a narcissistic introvert too, apparently. But that is merely a habit of personality that disappears when you focus on others.

BTW, if your fear of people finding you uninteresting turns out to be true, no loss: you've learned something interesting about them, at least. ;)
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Thanks, everyone, for your response I'll try and move in that direction. Prayer for my anxiety on this will help too if you think about it.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
We got to know our neighbors much better recently when we had an increase of criminal activity, with robbers knocking on our doors periodically to try to get a peek inside, using various excuses. One of them finally had her place broken into, with children home alone inside no less. Hopefully it doesn't come to that in your case!
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Junior
There is a world of difference between loving your neighbor and liking your neighbor, or wanting to spend time with them. To love your neighbor is to do nothing to harm them, and to exercise yourself for their good. That might be reflected in myriad tiny ways like not insisting on a particular parking spot, turning your music down, or having a smaller bonfire if they're the nervous sort. We have often restrained the children from doing perfectly reasonable things like walking on top of walls or climbing trees because there were nervous people around, even though we had every right to laugh in the people's faces and exhort them to mind their business. I love my neighbor by returning the shopping cart to the corral; by driving safely; by picking up litter; by being on time for things; by not wearing sweatpants in public--and all without ever having to meet or speak to most of them.
I can honestly say that I dislike or am at best ambivalent about most people I've met, even in our church, and have no interest in ever meeting new people, but my duty is not to like them: it is to love them as I do myself.
 

Kinghezy

Puritan Board Sophomore
Regarding interacting with fellow churchmen, I personally do not enjoy initiating conversations, especially right after service when it is full of chatter. If I was thinking about what I would do differently (which this thread reminds me I really should), I would use the extra time before service (we get there with enough time for kids to have a snack) and try to engage with people before more of a crowd forms. I like @PaulCLawton advice of following a train of questions to keep someone talking. I use that, because I would prefer to not talk about myself, so I have found people will generally allow themselves to talk about something they are interested in.

How you engage neighbors who you gotten into the habit of not engaging is a difficult question for me. There are certainly some neighbors who my relationship with (or lack of) falls into that same boat. Maybe it's just being bold enough to introduce myself, even though I may kick myself afterwards for how the conversation went.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
There is a world of difference between loving your neighbor and liking your neighbor, or wanting to spend time with them. To love your neighbor is to do nothing to harm them, and to exercise yourself for their good. That might be reflected in myriad tiny ways like not insisting on a particular parking spot, turning your music down, or having a smaller bonfire if they're the nervous sort. We have often restrained the children from doing perfectly reasonable things like walking on top of walls or climbing trees because there were nervous people around, even though we had every right to laugh in the people's faces and exhort them to mind their business. I love my neighbor by returning the shopping cart to the corral; by driving safely; by picking up litter; by being on time for things; by not wearing sweatpants in public--and all without ever having to meet or speak to most of them.
I can honestly say that I dislike or am at best ambivalent about most people I've met, even in our church, and have no interest in ever meeting new people, but my duty is not to like them: it is to love them as I do myself.
I wasn’t convinced until you got to the sweatpants.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
Unbeknownst to you all here (since I can blab and blab online), I have a very difficult time talking with people. I get very anxious when talking to people. I have to make myself go up to talk with my church family. I ask them how they have been, how is work going, etc. They answer my questions and then I'm all out of questions and we just look at each other and either they walk away or I do. It's really awkward and I know I should do better.
I know exactly how you feel and experienced this same kind of social anxiety for years (not just in church). Fortunately, I was able to develop myself through persistent effort and learning a few tips described below - some of which I learned in the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, which I highly recommend:
  • Positive facial expressions are incredibly impactful; think of someone who cheers you up every time you see them - it's often because they warm you up with a smile. A smile lets the person know you are happy to see them and they feel much more comfortable opening up to you. We often overestimate how much emotion we are exhibiting. Let it out (but do so sincerely - see next bullet).
  • Truly and sincerely develop interest in what the person is saying. People can detect when others don't really care what they're saying, which is a major turn-off. So don't just go through the emotions in "expressing interest" - actually have interest (remember they are God's creation, who has placed them in contact with you) in them.
  • Remember things people talked about before (things they're interested in, doing, worried about, etc.) and ask them later about it. This not only is a good way to stir up conversation, but shows you genuinely care about them by remembering the things they had previously discussed.
  • Refer to people by their name. Dale Carnegie has an entire chapter about the dynamics of people loving to hear their name. Don't just say, "Hello", say "Hello, Jim". Stating their name expresses a higher level of intimacy beyond just their person.
  • Look at people when they're talking and maintain eye contact.
  • Before you meet with people, refresh yourself on things currently going on with your life so you have a response when someone asks you how you're doing. Think of interesting stories you can tell.
  • As someone stated earlier, learn to ask probing (but not intrusive) questions. People love to talk about themselves and often times you can get a person talking long about something even if you know nothing about the subject.
 
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gjensen

Puritan Board Freshman
A neighbor of mine had a stroke late this summer. She was in the hospital for a length of time, and then rehab. Her husband was busy with work and being with her.

She has a couple pets and a large yard with flowers etc. So for a couple of months, we cared for her pets and took care of her yard.

When my sons were younger, I noticed a boy and his sister watching our boys play. So I initiated some interaction. Initially his mother was skeptical, as we are another race etc. Still, soon enough, he was family. He still is family.

A friend of our sons lived in an unsafe environment. So he spent a lot of time in our home, and eventually came to live with us where he heard the Gospel most nights. He is in the Army now.

We became friends with a low income single mother and her kids. She is not a believer, but two of her three kids are. I go to her son's wrestling matches, because his father is absent. We have taken him hunting, teaching him to drive, etc.

Not long ago, a low income man and his family was broke down close to my home. So we helped him. This turned into a couple visits, and the Gospel being shared.

I met a mature gentleman that has no local family. I have not been faithful recently, but I was keeping up with him by visiting him at his home.

I could go on and on. It is never ending, even overwhelming, but the point here is to demonstrate some variety. It is all according to His providence anyways. We just hope to be obedient.

I am an introvert too. But He puts an ache in my soul for all of these that I cannot escape. They become irrisistable.

Just begin. It gets easier as you move along. Remember Who you are doing it for. It does not have to look like what I have described.
I am sure that I do everything wrong. But I do love them, and they know that I do.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
It's a real problem in my part of the world. Several guys seem to think that if there's a matching zip-up hoodie sweatshirt, it counts as a formal suit.

Ben I must confess I always enjoy seeing you discuss sweatpants. I just wanted to let you know, never cease disavowing the practice!
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
I struggle with the same thing but in a different way than you. I think I am a blend of a few of the items you highlighted above, but I have been improving a lot over the years. Some in academic fields call what you're referring to as emotional intelligence. It's something I looked into a bit and compared this to Jesus was very emotionally intelligent. If you think about how he relates to people in different circumstances its very clear. It highlights what you are saying above but in the positive instead of the negative. He is selfless, he cares about people and how they feel. He engages people where they're at and doesn't talk above them. Try to look for these things next time you read through one of the gospel accounts. Think about his situation and try to envision how people are feeling and I think it speaks volumes. Practically speaking, when talking with people ask questions that are open ended enough to drive conversation. What you are looking for is a question that can't end with a yes or no answer. For example, how are you doing is generic because everybody says good. When somebody says bad its very rare.. In my experience its better to ask something like "Anything you're looking forward to doing this week?". IF they open up write it down and follow-up with them next week.

In reference to your neighbors, Some of the items I list below are things that I have actually done and it's worked quite well.

When it comes to your neighbors there are a few things that come to mind.

1. Pray for them
2. Bring them a welcome to the neighborhood gift; gift for christmas; thanksgiving, easter.. Example: Bring them Brownies, Cookies, Chocolates and leave a note/card on their door.
3. Help them out, especially if they're elderly or seem really busy. For example, shovel & salt their driveway.. de-ice their car windshield, mow their lawn
4. When you start to get to know them invite them over for coffee, tea, dinner (pizza), board games, movies ect..
5. Try to be intentional about being available when they're outside.. For example, read outside when its nice and talk to them.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Do folks up there do the "turquoise table" thing?
I'm a northerner. I have no idea what "turquoise table" is, but I'll gladly imagine a meaning relating to other southern stereotypes. Perhaps it's where one rests their feet after a long day of eating okra and hunting alligators. :detective:
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm a northerner. I have no idea what "turquoise table" is, but I'll gladly imagine a meaning relating to other southern stereotypes. Perhaps it's where one rests their feet after a long day of eating okra and hunting alligators. :detective:
What's wrong with hunting aligators ? You know dealing with a neighbors gator problem is a form of love. And I've only killed one gator in my life, and yes we ate it's tail. You skin it and BBQ it good!! Gotta stop posting when I'm hungry. But to the OP, practice makes perfect. The more conscience you talk with people (What works, what doesn't) the better you will become.
BTW what you're describing is a a all to common thing in our internet/smartphone age. People in general are horrible at face to face interactions but can text away with no problem. Know that you will fail at times but learning from them and doing better is a form of love.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Know that you will fail at times but learning from them and doing better is a form of love.

Thank you for this. I've just been grieving my failures today in not pursuing certain interactions and it was helpful to remember that not giving up or pretending I did just fine but learning to do better is itself a form of love.
 
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