And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight….
Philippians 1:9 (NIV)
Along my journey I have managed individuals who were in the wrong position. They weren’t suited for the tasks they were given, they didn’t enjoy the work, and the fruit of their labor was often rotten. The fact that we had good person in a bad position was obvious to me as a front-line manager. I have two very vivid memories in which I argued with my boss that an individual needed to be terminated. This was not so much to alleviate the problems felt inside the system (though it would certainly do that) but because the individual needed to be freed to find something for which he or she was better suited. In both cases I was told that the best thing to do was to “show grace and love” by continuing to work with the individual, keep encouraging the individual, to keep overlooking their failures, and to perpetually give them another chance. In neither instance did the this course of “grace and love” succeed.
Love is a simple word, and very often love is a simple concept: a random act of kindness, going out of your way to assist a person in need, an encouraging word, or a thoughtful gift.
As I read the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in the town of Philippi, I was struck that he prayed, not just that the Philippian believers’ love would abound, but that that it would abound in knowledge and depth of insight.
I have found along my life journey that love is often not such a simple concept. In fact, sometimes love is hard:
- Coming clean, owning my own shit, and getting help.
- Forgiving, knowing you’ll never forget the injury and/or the perpetrator will never admit, own, or repent of what he or she did.
- Refusing to rescue a child; Allowing him or her fail as you watch and pray.
- Choosing to make a child responsible for earning his or her way rather than freely providing all things.
- Severing relationship with a crazy-maker.
- Walking away from a toxic relationship.
- Telling an addict, “No.”
- Terminating an employee who isn’t a good fit for the job.
Just as Paul wrote that Satan masquerades as an angel of light, I’ve learned that sometimes what looks like love on the surface of a situation is actually not love at all. Quite the opposite. Often, the loving act is misunderstood in the moment. It requires knowledge to realize that it’s actually the best thing for the other. The truly loving act can initially illicit anger, bitterness, and lashing out. Depth of insight is required to see how things will play out in the long run.
This morning I’m thinking about the two individuals I referenced at the beginning of this post. I’ve learned that they moved on, found a better vocational fit, and appear to be successful in their chosen fields. I’m happy for them. They taught me an invaluable lesson. Showing “grace and love” sometimes means making the difficult, uncomfortable, even unpopular decision with the knowledge and insight that it’s actually the most loving thing to do.