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Several decades ago, two researchers published a study called Adverse Childhood Experiences. This study connected the negative behavior of a teenager—and even poor health—to traumatic childhood experiences.
The study isn’t all bad news and depressing statistics, though. The researchers concluded that these behaviors and health issues can be offset by something: love.
Unconditional love in a world of science
When we hear people talk about love changing the world, it’s easy to roll our eyes and call them flower children. Or we think how wonderful it would be for all to love like God, but we know it’ll never happen this side of heaven. We obey one of God’s greatest commandments when we love others, but can that kind of love really change the world? I mean, come on.
But have you ever looked into the science behind love? Yes, believe it or not, we can look at the scientific evidence of something people call “fleeting emotions.”
The thoughts we have shape our neural networks in our brains (simply put). When we make the same connection again and again in our brains, we create stronger connections. In other words, we’re shaping our brain to be familiar with that connection. If we stop receiving that connection regularly, our brains will begin to eliminate those connections.
Yeah, it can be confusing. You can check out this article or this one to learn more. However, you’ll have to decide for yourself how valid their explanations are. We simply looked at the basic science in each article. Or, you can Google the chemical and neural effects thoughts have on the brain.
It sounds a little crazy, but if we think about these connections in our brains, it’s easy to see how loving or not loving someone can change these connections. When a child grows up neglected and not receiving love, their brains will never make strong connections in regards to love. They won’t know how to receive love or give it.
So when we withhold love from someone, we’re not only disobeying God, but we’re stealing an opportunity to change someone’s life.
The possibility of unconditional love
Can you imagine growing up and never experiencing the unconditional love of a parent, a sibling, even a friend? Yet millions of people live life this way. They have never made those connections in their brains. They live in fight or flight mode. Soon, their brains can’t even recognize love.
While this sounds dramatic, this truly is reality for more than we realize. Suddenly, thinking about unconditional love changing the lives of those around us doesn’t sound so crazy.
And once again, science is catching up with a concept that’s been around since the beginning of time. Since even before then. God, in His infinite wisdom, has been loving us unconditionally since the beginning (Jeremiah 31:3). He’s created our brains to need that consistency, and He provides a way for us to easily receive it.
Godly love might be uncommon, but it’s surely not impossible. It feels overwhelming and ridiculous to think about changing the world, but thankfully God doesn’t command us to change the world. He commands us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34).
One person at a time. One neural connection at a time.
Can you imagine the possibilities? The opportunities we have to change someone’s life? We may not have the ability to begin a world-relief organization or travel around the world spreading love, but we can start in our homes. In our neighborhoods. In our churches and communities.
As we celebrate Valentine’s Day tomorrow, as we receive love from others, as we accept God’s perfect love, may we remember God did not just command us to love in order to give us something to do. Just as our lives have changed as a result of those who love us, we can change the lives of others.
We can reflect God’s love and glorify Him as we show others they’re worth it. And in doing so, we can change the world one person at a time.
Let’s Talk About It: How can you unconditionally love others?