Here is a list of character traits I deplore in others:
1) Caring about the wrong things
2) Not listening properly
3) Being a martyr (not in the dying-for-your-faith way, but in the ‘this is such a burden but I’ll do it anyway even though I feel very put upon’ way)
4) Being on a mission to let the world know, subtly or otherwise, how important they are
5) Being patronising
When I come across any of these, I roll my eyes, mentally file the person under ‘idiots’, and subconsciously give myself permission to dislike them.
You might not have the same list of things which push your buttons, but I suspect I’m not the only one with an Idiot File. We enable it in each other. We say, ‘You’re right, they are awful’ or ‘You poor thing, I don’t know how you deal with them’ or ‘Don’t worry, you’re not the problem, they are.’ The unspoken rule is that there are some people it’s just ok to bitch about.
Except it isn’t of course.
We’re called to love people. All of them. Even the passive aggressive ones and the ones with the terrifying politics.
So, because we’re good Christians who want to do the right thing, we try. We try and put a lid on it, tell ourselves that they are a child of God, and that the Christian way is to be nice about them.
More often than not what actually ends up happening is we tolerate them, allow ourselves a good old moan in private and then feel bad, or try and justify it in some way (But if they weren’t so lazy/racist/theologically dodgy I wouldn’t have a problem…). Then the whole wretched cycle starts again.
So how do we break it? I wish I knew. I really, really struggle in this area. However, because I struggle and I want to do better, I’ve thought about it a lot. Here are some things I try and hold on to:
1) Love is a decision.
It’s so powerful at weddings when people promise they will love, future tense. It’s a promise of something which operates outside of emotion; it’s an act of will. You don’t have to feel a certain way about someone in order to love them.
It’s also, and I find this hugely comforting, what we are designed to do. Deciding to love people is not fighting the natural order of things, it’s becoming more who we’re meant to be.
2) People are generally not that bad.
Learning to see people’s vulnerabilities makes them easier to love. Think about what they might be scared of, or how they might have been hurt.
3) It’s often more about you.
Ask yourself: Do you find that particular person difficult because they highlight something about yourself that you don’t like? Maybe the reason they are so irritating is because they touch a raw nerve or an insecurity.
4) Perspective is everything.
For most of us, loving our ‘enemies’ means learning to love people who argue with us online or annoy us at work, not people who have killed our families.
5) God will help.
Ask God to bless and prosper the people you find difficult. It’s really hard to do! But you can also ask God to help you mean it. He will.
Image by Mateusz Stachowski, stock.xchng images.