Ways to Love Others Well

Love is both a noun and a verb. Today I will be talking more about the verb side of love, as in how we can build intimacy with those in our lives and help them thrive. I will be relating this post mainly to children today but the tips below can be helpful in any relationship.

  When I think of the children the Lord has blessed me with, I see how vastly different they are from one another. They look different, act different, learn differently from one another, and their love languages are different. It takes time studying them, making mistakes, and being able to talk with them about what they enjoy and how best to enter their world. Here are my top 5 tips of showing love to my tribe.

1. Communication

  Entering another person’s world and being able to listen and talk with them about their interests, likes, dislikes, fears, accomplishments, etc. is key to growing a relationship. By getting to know others, you are investing into their lives and letting them know you care.
  In our home we have an open door policy. I let my children know they can come to me with anything at any time. Some of my children are more natural at talking than others. So, it is important that I am patient with those who are more introverted. When they are ready to have an in depth conversation it is often spur of the moment, late at night,... and it can be a long conversation. I want to make sure I am available when they need/want to have these heart to heart moments.

 These discussions are pivotal for building trust and are an amazing in road to your child’s heart. The same goes for other relationships in our life. When we take the time to listen to others we are letting them know that we are a safe place for their heart.
  I encourage you strongly to make yourself available to your children whether they are talking about the superficial or deeper, harder things. When they know they can trust you with the little things, then they will come to you with the bigger things.

Great communication starts with listening.

 Dr. Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said it best when he wrote

 “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” 

  I am a recovering peace maker. It is my default to want to jump in and offer advice or help in order to try to make things better (a.k.a “fix things”). However, it often works best for me to keep my mouth shut while the other person shares, especially my children. Then, when the time is right or when asked, I will offer my advice. (This is easier said than done.) If I am unsure if  someone wants my advice,  I will ask “Are you asking for my advice or do you just need a listening ear?” This seemingly simple question is huge for building a strong relationship.

2. Pursue 

  If you want to get to know someone then you need to engage them. With children, attend their games, join in a hobby together, take them out on a date, sit on the edge of their bed at night and ask them about their day. With other relationships go out to coffee, plan to do an activity together, pick up the phone and give your friend a call. Spend  uninterrupted time with those you want to know better.  Get together, one on one, so you can really get to know them more deeply. 
When you do engage others, BE IN THE MOMENT. Put your phone in it’s docking station and walk away from it or silence it if you are out together. Give the person you are with your undivided attention.  Don’t be thinking about what you need to make for dinner, the bills that need to be paid, or about the argument you had with your boss that day. Be present. 

  Pursuing also includes checking in on them when they are having a hard day. Touch base and let them know that you see their pain and ask if they want to talk or if you can help. Sometimes they may open up, other times they want their space, but asking really shows that you care and that you notice. Often times they end up wanting to talk later on once they have had time to process.

3. Healthy Physical Touch

  There are SO MANY studies that show the importance of physical touch. We have receptors under our skin and when we receive positive touch our heart rate lowers, our breathing slows down, stress hormones decrease, and our immune system boosts. Touch lowers anxiety and depression, especially in children. If you have a child who isn’t “huggy” so to speak, they may be unsettled by unexpected touch but they might enjoy a hug if you ask first. The fact is that humans need physical touch. Touch signals safety and trust and is directly linked to feelings of reward and compassion. It has even been proven that NBA players who touched more won more games

   We hug a lot in our family. We hug when we are happy, when we are sad, and when we are upset. When my children are showing anger I will ask for permission to hug them or rub their back, sometimes they say yes and sometimes they say no. Make sure you respect their “no”.

A hug, a pat on the back, holding hands, high fives, putting your hand on their shoulder,… there are many ways to touch others in a way that lets them know you care and are supporting them. 

4. Boundaries
 As we invest in the lives of others it is important to have boundaries. Children will naturally test their limits as they strive to become more independent and it is our job as parents to teach them how to test their limits respectfully. Part of having clear boundaries is having a routine to follow. When children know what to expect in their day it gives them a sense of security. The same goes for our other relationships in life.  When people know what our boundaries are, it makes for more harmonious relationships.

 Brene Brown, in her book Rising Strong, defines boundaries as:

“simply our lists of what’s okay and what’s not okay.”

It is an easy definition that is helpful not matter what your age is. The people in your life will  have boundaries of their own that they express and need you to respect. A child might say “ I don’t want to share my stuffed bunny with friends. It is my favorite toy and I am afraid it will get ruined if I share it." That is a healthy boundary. You can let them know that when friends are over the bunny will stay in the bedroom, where friends do not go, and therefore will be safe. 

When friends come over to our home we let them know that their children are welcome to play in the common areas of our home but that our upstairs is off limits. Our children know this rule as well so they know what to expect and there won’t be resentment later on when  friends arrive and ask to play upstairs in the bedrooms and we say “no”.  Being up front with others about our expectations helps us love well.

5. Consequences

  Hand in hand with boundaries comes consequences. Everything we do, whether good or bad, has a consequence. A consequence is simply the result of an action.Allowing others to experience the impact of their actions is how they are going to learn what to do and what not to do, it can be a painful way to love but it brings about growth both in ourselves and those we are in relationship with.

If you don’t have firm consequences then your boundaries will mean nothing. We need to back up our boundaries with ramifications if we want healthy relationships.

"Consequences give some good "barbs" to fences. They let people know the seriousness of the trespass and the seriousness of our respect for ourselves." 
(Boundaries p. 40)

By giving consequences when people overstep their bounds, it helps teach them that we are committed to living according to the values that we have set for ourselves and that we intend on protecting/guarding those values. 

We can give consequences with a calm voice and with empathy and understanding. Consequences are not punishments, they are not based out of anger or fear. Consequences are loving and are for teaching.

  Consequences teach accountability. In regards to children, we keep the consequences in our home as natural or related to the misbehavior (logical) as possible. Natural consequences are consequences that happen naturally, without any adult intervention. If your child refuses to wear mittens, their hands get cold. If you child insists on not eating their sandwich, they feel hungry. 

 In adult relationships the circumstances may be a little different but still, it is best to allow natural consequences to play out.  If your roommate consistently stays up late in spite of needing to wake early for work, don't be their alarm clock. The natural consequence is that they are late to work. 

*It is important to note that sometimes we need to step in to protect those around us from the natural consequences of their dangerous behavior.  Grabbing the keys so a friend doesn't drink and drive or making sure your child doesn't chase a ball out into the street are examples of situations when we don't let the natural consequence play out. Use common sense in these situations.

  With natural consequences, avoid lectures, ( “I told you so”) and stay out of the way as much as possible.  Rather than blaming or shaming the other person when they experience a natural consequence, empathize with them. “You must’ve been cold today without your mittens. There’s hot water on the stove for cocoa or tea if you’d like something to warm you up”. Or simply say nothing at all and just let it be.

Don't forget, praise is also a natural consequence and it is amazing what a few simple words can do to encourage someone.

"Thank you for bringing in the groceries for me, that was such a huge help ".

"That was so kind of you to share your crayons with your sister." 

"Thank you for taking notes for me at the staff meeting I missed while I was sick. I really appreciate it."

In a world that is rushing past us all the time it is easy to just notice what is not going well, but if we take the time to notice the good and praise it... we will build up those around us and encourage more kindness.

  Relationships are so important to our every day lives. In order to love others well we need to be willing to listen, engage people in conversation and activities, offer the gift of healthy touch, set clear boundaries and follow them up with consequences.

What are some ways you love others in your life? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Thankful for the gift of you!
With love,


  1. Love this. Great list and good practical applications.


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