Loving someone responsibly doesn’t come by accident. It takes intention, thought, and focus. How do you love someone responsibly? Here is how I do it. 1. Intention – Study the person you care about. Listen with purpose. Let your listening become a way to edify your relationships. Write out steps for what you will do to touch someone’s heart. People always share their heart. We just have gotten bad at listening. You have to notice them. The details matter. This doesn’t mean your invasive with your observations but you must be present mentally while they are speaking. People sometimes are unaware that their vulnerabilities are exposed. If your intentional enough, you will notice patterns. Sometimes it is embarrassing or shameful for them. For the sake of the relationship, you cover and protect their vulnerabilities giving them opportunity to save face. You want an example? For example, two men at work are talking about their families. One man shares a story about his family living on one check and that his family hadn’t gone to out to eat at a nice restaurant in a long while. Another man notices that detail among hundreds of other topics that are shared throughout the day. Instead of acknowledging that fact out of courtesy and soon forgetting about it, the second man begins a plan to give a gift card to a nice restaurant for his coworker. He needs to time it correctly though. If it is done too quickly, it may seem like one man pitied the other. It needs to be done at a time where both men will feel it is proper. There is a window of opportunity. If the second waits until it is right, the seemingly regular gift has more meaning. The gift, in this case, is not only the gift card itself. It is the preparation of waiting. It is the planning and intention of the gift. It is the fulfillment of a heart’s secret desire. It is one friend telling another friend “I’m listening.” That my friend is intentional caring. That is a good gift. I would want that. We must practice it with our spouses first, then our families and friends after. 2. Thought – Your mind is a powerful tool. It takes effort, time and energy to use it the way it was meant to be used. If you invest quality resources you will receive the recompense of your well thought out actions. You need to be a problem solver. Refuse to be paralyzed when an obstacle shows up. You may be ignorant at the moment but don’t let that paralyze you. You need to know what you don’t know first. Remember ignorance is not an excuse to do nothing. Let your mind lead you to make new contacts even though it may seem uncomfortable. Your mind can lead to decide to embrace new experiences. Your mind can pave the way for a smoother relationship for you and your loved one. How? I’m glad you asked. For example, a husband and wife just bought a used car from a friend. It has been showing signs of its use. Both spouses don’t know that much about cars. The car stops turning on and they get stuck on the side of the highway. It causes much friction between the two. They call a tow truck and spend the money to get it back to the house. They are low on money and it has been stressing the husband who bought it from his friend. The friend said that it had a problem with the car battery having loose cables and sometimes it prevents the car from starting but the husband didn’t know how to fix it. He doesn’t like that his wife is worried about money or being stranded on the side of the road again if she were to drive by herself to the grocery store. He wants her to feel more secure and confident in his ability to keep her safe. What does he do? Does he blame his wife and say, “Why don’t you get a job so we can afford a better car?” No. That wouldn’t be healthy for his relationship. Does he say, “I don’t need you to think you married the wrong man because I don’t know how to fix a car battery?” No. That would be foolish. He doesn’t let his pride or embarrassment get to him. In fact, he does not say anything. He gets on the internet and finds out two ways to fix car battery cables. He develops his skill by taking about two hours of his time to work on the cables. He practices. Then in pride he calls his wife out of the house and demonstrates his mastery of his knowledge of car battery cables. He teaches his wife too. She smiles. This is being thoughtful. The gift of thought is not about a material thing. It is about trying to understand the experience of the other person. It is about trying to view the same perspective of the other person. This is the gift. It is telling the other person “I care about what you care about. I value your perspective.” That my friend is good loving! What do you think will happen next time the battery cables act dumb. The man will get to show off his new superpower then wink at his wife. 3. Focus – What is the priority? Are you more interested in being right or being in a healthy relationship? Where is your focus? You must lead the relationship somewhere. If your focus is on you, nope. Not healthy. This is how you become selfish and tear a friendship apart. Remember the title of this blog. It is about loving someone responsibly! You must stay focused. This doesn’t mean to neglect yourself or sacrifice so much of yourself and your resources that you become depleted and irrevocably damaged. You must be consistent. In order to be consistent, you yourself need to stay healthy. Life is always in a state of change and motion for better or worse. It does not care. If you show your focused and consistent, your loved one will see that it is for the better and that you care. With focus, you can plan correctly. You plan for the crisis. You plan for when your weaknesses surface. You plan your response for when your loved one’s weaknesses surface. You plan for the significant moments. You plan to make the unnoticed moments significant. You plan how you will apologize. You plan your daily life, goals, dreams and include your loved one in those plans. So that no matter what, you're consistently focused on the things that matter. Living life. Enjoying God. Loving one another and fulfilling dreams. It requires more from you than you think. You may not be willing to love in this way just yet but my hope for you friend is that you will get there. This type of love does not shy away from commitment. It is not for the lazy or cowards. It takes its responsibility seriously. A special note from the author Loving someone responsibly means you must never neglect yourself. You must guard your heart, your body, your mind and your soul. Keeping these necessary components healthy allows you to love at a maximum level. If your heart, body, mind and soul are whole and without fractures you can love the way you always wished you could. Unafraid.