Love thy neighbor as thyself. It's one of the most straightforward commands that Jesus gives us—far removed from his command to hate our mothers and fathers or to build our houses upon rock.
However, in practice, as any exasperated Christian has learned, loving "thy neighbor as thyself" isn't as easy, nor as clear-cut, as the simplicity of the commandment might suggest.
Obviously, I am still trying to figure it out myself, but here are a few suggestions that have helped me along the way.
1. Don't judge other people.
Yes, this means pushing aside the judgmental thoughts that pop into your head the instant you see someone who "looks" homeless, slutty, arrogant, unkind or any other stereotypical adjective you can think of. It also means that when you hear about the girl or guy who sleeps around, or the boyfriend or girlfriend who cheated on his or her significant other, or the person who treats other people like inferiors, you have to look beyond their actions to the piece of God shining through. God is inside everyone, regardless of their sin, and judging other people based on their sin is the exact opposite of what Jesus did and commands us to do.
2. Don't gossip.
This one goes hand in hand with number one: Stop gossiping. Talking about what someone did at a party last weekend is is no way showing the love of God and self to others. If you had made a big mistake, you wouldn't want everyone trading gossip and rumors about you; you would want other people to have some sympathy for you. And after all, I'm pretty sure that God doesn't sit up in Heaven gossiping with his archangels about everyone's shortcomings, so what right do you have to do so?
3. Be straightforward.
When you have a problem with someone, talk to them. Don't be passive aggressive. Besides the practical fact that straightforward communication is a much more efficient form of conflict resolution than passive aggression, passive aggression is a sign of insecurity and immaturity. We've all been passive aggressive, but being straightforward and assertive makes you appear much more confident, honest and thoughtful than snide subtlety and rude subtext. It shows true love, wisdom and courage to be the one to broach the issue sincerely.
4. Be kind.
At the same time, a straightforward approach should not entail an attack. Keep in mind that many relationship problems result from deep-rooted insecurities or fears, so aggressive accusations are not only inefficient but incredibly hurtful. Aggression is not the key to love but kindness, and being kind to others—especially if they aren't kind to you in return—is a sign of true love and selflessness.
5. Call people out.
If you notice a loved one engaging in a harmful and sinful activity—such as drinking, gossiping, going too far with significant others, watching pornography or a multitude of other possibilities—don't be afraid to call him or her out. It may seem intimidating or contrary to true love—after all, didn't I just say not to judge?—but calling someone out in a thoughtful and genuine way is a true sign of God's love. When Jesus called the prostitutes and tax collectors, he didn't tell them to follow him and keep sinning; he told them to stop their sinful behavior and follow him. None of us are perfect, and we will all sin to the day we die, but calling people out for specific sins with gentleness and openness (as opposed to judgment or condescension) reflects God's truest love. Remember, judge the sin and not the sinner.
6. Consider your political stance.
What? Politics?! Crazy, I know. But a political stance that condemns or discriminates against certain people—whether based on race, religion, gender or any other differentiating demographic—is not a reflection of God's love. While no one political ideology is "correct," as Christians, we are called to have love for the least of God's people, and taking a political stance contrary to this call—especially if you are open about these beliefs—is not loving others as yourself.
7. Be patient.
Your friends mess up. Your family messes up. Your coworkers mess up. Your significant other messes up. People are messy and we can't expect them to be perfect because that's impossible. Patience despite our shortcomings is a true sign of godly love.
Loving your neighbor as yourself is one of the central tenets of Christianity, but it's never easy to follow. The key is loving God, for those who truly love God will also love their neighbors. If only it were as simple to write as to live out, the world would be a perfect place; alas, it's up to us to spread the love of God in our unconditional love of his creations—even if, sometimes, we aren't quite perfect in this regard.