“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. I remember hearing this often when I was growing up. At the time, it didn’t really convince me to eat more fruits and vegetables but now that I’m older, I have come to appreciate the benefits of eating healthily. This gets me thinking not only about my physical health but also my mental and spiritual health. Healthy food and physical exercise are good for our bodies. What sorts of things are good for our mind and soul?
I leafed through my Bible and came across this familiar verse on “Fruits of the Spirit”. To me, these are virtues that keep me spiritually healthy, partly because they require some action on my part. They are not just a state of mind but something that I can consciously decide to do.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. Galations 5:22-23.
I decided to take a look at some of the Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of these words and compare them to how I feel they can be applied to daily life. I will tackle this over a series of posts just so we can take a detailed look at these words. Let’s start with love.
There are so many forms and definitions of love but the ones I like in particular are these two: “strong affection for another; unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. I like these two definitions because they acknowledge that love has a component of “feeling” and emotion as well as a conscious decision to care about someone else solely for their good. Therefore I choose to behave in such a way as to bring out the best in them. In the Bible, Jesus spoke of loving our “neighbor”. When asked “but who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29, Jesus went on to talk about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A selfless individual who decided to help a battered and bruised stranger at the side of the road, who had been brutally attacked by robbers.
When I was growing up, we passed by beggars in the street as quickly as possible. They were considered unsafe, it made us uncomfortable and we just didn’t really know how to respond. When I think about those moments, I really cringe at myself. How thoughtless and selfish of me! Jesus’ words to love our neighbor challenges me to find ways to help those who are hurting and suffering. This is one of the reasons I am passionate about pursuing a career in medicine. Just the idea of being able to heal someone’s diseases, offer them counsel, and alleviate their worries really gets me excited. One of my friends who is a first-time mom often calls me with motherhood questions (“White noise or no white noise? or “My baby is breastfeeding around the clock…help!”) I absolutely love these conversations because I can draw from my own experiences and alleviate some of her concerns.
There is so much that can be said about the concept of love but what I have learned from my interactions with people and from observing my friends and family is that love in its truest sense is selfless and unconditional. The “feeling” of love may come and go. There are times when our significant others, children, brothers, sisters, parents may annoy us, make us angry, make us want to give up on them. Yet, we decide to still love them. We may see someone suffering who is perhaps not from our culture, not in our income bracket, who has differing opinions, or who we may not be able to relate to. Yet, we decide to still love them. Love is a powerful thing. Love erases fear, love erases prejudice, love erases judgement. The Bible itself said the greatest gift of all is love.