Hello, April! Time for the Charity Challenge: Love of Neighbor.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength. [And] you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31
Before you can love your neighbor as yourself, you need to make sure you have a healthy love of self. If you’re struggling with that, make a quick stop at the Humility Challenge, then come back here.
Okay, here we go.
Love your neighbor.
This would be your friends. And your enemies. Your acquaintances. And strangers. Soooo, pretty much everybody.
This month, we discover ways to love our neighbor. From the closest to us: our family, to the homeless man standing on the corner, to the souls in purgatory, and everyone in between.
We’ll explore ways to do good to them and to avoid hurting them.
Let’s embark on our mission to love.
Do Good to Your Neighbor
Practice Good Stewardship
- Give your time. There’s nothing that shows your love for a friend like the gift of time. When you’re with friends, make sure to give them your full attention. Devote that time to your friendship without distractions. Find time to help others outside your circle of friendship this month too: help organize that event going on at your church. Give a day at a soup kitchen or other local charity. Or write a letter to a soldier overseas.
- Give your talents. God gave us our gifts to share with others. Could your artistic talents help a friend make homemade wedding invitations? Could your skills in the kitchen give a busy mom a night off of cooking for her family? Could your sewing ability craft an Easter dress for a child in need? Ask God to inspire you. Find a way to bring joy to others through your amazing gifts.
- Give your possessions. The vast majority of us have enough to live on and some to spare. If you can pay for Netflix, you can help out families who can’t afford to buy food. Donate to a local soup kitchen. Buy a box of granola bars and a smoothie for the guy holding a sign at the traffic light. Sign up for Team180 and help the poor in Haiti.
Show your love through the gift of time. Devote time to your friendship without distractions. Tweet this.
Practice Works of Mercy
- Visit your neighbor in need. Visit a nursing home or stop in to see your ailing grandma. Make rounds at a hospital or at your friend’s house who’s down with the flu. Bring rosaries and prayer cards to a prison, or to your estranged (and maybe strange) fallen away uncle.
- Admonish the sinner. Do it. Call out the pro-choice friend on Facebook. Share that NFP post. Or the one about gay marriage. Speak out about the dangers of grave sin. And in your family, start to hold each other accountable: spouses, parents, and children. Offer correction and support in a calm, kind, caring way. It may be difficult. You might rock the boat. But love doesn’t silently watch the beloved hurt himself. Fight for the soul of your neighbor. Bur first, pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance.
Be a Good Friend.
- Be a good listener. I love my friends. They “get me.” But do I “get them” too? I can get caught up in my own stories and my own experiences, and forget to listen to my friend. Practice good listening. Let your friend talk and talk until she’s done, without interrupting. Then, instead of returning with your own story, offer questions or reflections about what your friend is going through. Try to understand her.
- Respect their opinions. Don’t compromise the truth. But respect your friend’s true opinions. She veils during Mass and you don’t? Find out why. Her husband sleeps in a separate bed? Respect her privacy and her personal way to preserve sanity in her family. She’s a vegetarian and you’re a carnivore? Make sure you have a dish she can eat when you invite her over for dinner. In all subjective matters, respect your differing opinions.
- Be kind. “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It’s cliché but true. Ever notice that you treat strangers with more respect than your friends, and especially your own family? Look your spouse in the eye when he’s talking to you. Use your kind voice with your kids. Refrain from making that rude, cutting joke that might hurt your friend’s feelings. Be pleasant. Be kind.
See Christ in Others
- Pray for others. Every person is called to holiness and destined for Heaven. They are made in the image of God. No matter how you feel about them personally, pray for them. See their hurt and the longing to fill the hole in their heart with the love of Christ. Pray for your friends. Pray for your enemies. Pray for sinners. Pray for the souls in purgatory. We are one Body in Christ, and prayer binds us together.
- Don’t be offended. I can’t say it any better than Fr. Mike did. Watch this video. Get over yourself. And try to see the layers behind a person’s hurtful comments. Don’t take it so personally.
- See the person. I bought some groceries for the man at the stop light this week. I was a few cars back in line, so I threw my car in park, hopped out, and walked up to him instead of making him come to me. Standing face to face with him, shaking his hand, I saw him. Randy. A man deserving the respect and dignity of the tiny little sacrifice of walking up to meet him. A man with a story. A life. Loved by God. And in that moment, he was more than a charity case. I saw his personhood. Look for the person living behind anonymity. Learn his name. Love him.
Look for the person living behind anonymity. Learn his name. Love him. Tweet this.
Avoid Hurting Your Neighbor
Guard Your Tongue
- Don’t cut down. Don’t gossip. Don’t attack with sarcasm or cutting remarks. Your neighbor deserves the dignity of kind words. Don’t say something behind their backs that you wouldn’t say to their faces.
- Don’t flare up. God gave us anger as a gift. It alerts us to a problem and prompts us to search for solutions. But our anger is not to be used as a weapon against others. Avoid lashing out in anger.
- Don’t give bad counsel. Sometimes I’m scared to start a fight, and in my fear, I passively or even directly affirm others in their sin. With my mouth I say, “It’s okay… You did the right thing…” But my mind screams in opposition. Beware the millstone. Guard your soul and your friend’s soul. Don’t lead others to sin by your bad advice – or your silence!
Guard Your Attitude.
- Don’t be a hater. Don’t hate others. Don’t hold grudges or wish for revenge. At some point, you need to let things go and move on. If you can reconcile, do so. If you can’t, you may need some distance for a while. Or possibly a friendship break-up. But spare yourself the drama of spiteful negativity.
- Don’t be a mind reader. Unless someone specifically tells you the reasons behind their actions, don’t assume to know their motives. Maybe they didn’t text you back because they lost their phone. Maybe they didn’t wave because they didn’t see you. Maybe they skipped your party because they came down with the flu. Give your friends the benefit of the doubt. Or… just ask.
- Don’t be a jerk. Sometimes you just don’t like someone. You can’t stand them, and it’s hopeless that you could ever get along. That’s okay. It happens. But it’s not an excuse to treat that person poorly. Don’t use it to justify your rudeness. Instead, like St. Therese, find a way to “love them the most because you like them the least.”
- Forgive others. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” How do you want God to forgive you? Forgive others the same way. Forgive them when they ask. Forgive them when they don’t. Forgive them seven times. Forgive them seventy times seven times. Don’t hold back forgiveness, it’ll bite you in the butt someday.
- Ask for forgiveness. I like to think I’m perfect. I never do anything wrong or saying anything mean. I never make mistakes. But when I think this way, I lie to myself. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your faults, and seek forgiveness when you wrong others.
Forgive seventy times seven times. Don’t hold back forgiveness, it’ll bite you in the butt someday. Tweet this.
Be Christ to Others.
- Be a good example. You are the Gospel to the world. At every Mass, the priest dismisses you: “Go and spread the Good News.” Your life is a living, breathing testimony of God’s saving grace. Make sure you lead others to Christ by your example.
- Don’t give scandal. We can give scandal by participating in sin, or approving others’ sinfulness. Our actions speak loudly to communicate what we think is okay. Don’t show approval for the sins of others. If you’re a parent, you have a special responsibility to avoid sinning in front of your children. They will absorb and mirror back your words and actions. Think about this before you break the speed limit, answer the phone while driving, or let cuss words fly.
- Don’t enable. Are you providing an occasion of sin for others? Is your ear always open to gossip? Is your party oversupplied with alcohol? (Weddings. Yeesh.) Are you providing your teenage daughter with birth control? Are you provoking your spouse to anger? If you pave the road to hell, you’re walking on it, too. Put your foot down and say, “No!” instead of enabling. Spare your soul and save your friend too.
Take the Challenge:
Are you ready to grow in charity? Let’s get started! Here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare. Reread this post carefully and reflect on what it means in your life. Print out your materials and place them in convenient places in your home.
- Every morning, start the day with prayer (find it on your Nightstand Guide).
- Throughout the day, use your Fridge Guide to help integrate love of neighbor into your life. Your Fridge guide has brief reminders, and some bonus extras (like an indulgenced prayer – woot!).
- Every evening, pray the nightly Examen (find it on your Nightstand Guide). This is a step-by-step review of your day, including praying for forgiveness, and resolving to do better tomorrow.
- Before confession (or weekly at least), prayerfully read the Examination of Conscience. Reflect, not only on your sins and failings, but also on how God has blessed you with growth in virtue!
Download Your Free Printables:
This Virtue Challenge is going to change your life! I pray God gives each of you (and me too, I need this) the grace you need to grow in love of neighbor and to become the saint He’s calling you to be.
Take the Love of Neighbor Virtue Challenge now! Grab some cardstock, print your printables, and get ready for a grace-filled, growth-filled month.
Created in conjunction with Momsters Raising Monsters