Loving Difficult People
In this year of Mercy, we are called to offer a merciful gaze to all people BUT that is easier said than done right? I found a few ways to cope with this hardship and I hope it helps.
Give the person the benefit of the doubt: A very insightful friend once told me this analogy: Our grandparents had a toolbox with only a few tools to raise their kids and build them up. Those tools they used were passed on to their kids but the tools are a bit worn and were limited so the kids can only use the tools they have so if they got a hammer and nail – that’s what they have to work with. Even though the project needed a drill and a chain saw, those tools were not present so a hammer and nail had to do the job. Similarly, we are raised with what our parents had. They built us up the best way they could but some families had less tools so they didn’t have ample resources and didn’t know better. When I think about those people who irritate me, I try to think about the lack of tools that they had to do without- the tools of compromise, honesty and kindness and so on.
We are all travelling on a unique journey and we each have our own burdens and sorrows. Try to give the other the benefit of love because we don’t know what they are facing or what they are lacking in their own lives because it was not given to them. You can only use what has been given to you. When you think about the person who irks you – try to remember that they are doing the best they can with what they have. Complement others with who you are because we need others to depend on and they fill what we lack.
Do a self- evaluation: what is it about the person that frustrates you? Does that feature in the person (for example: pride or condescension) remind you of all the things you don’t want to be? Have you carried expectations and assumptions of how this person should treat you? Is there something in me that might need to change or be tweaked for my own peace and character development? Check your relationships and search your heart. Am I growing in love?
· Always focus on what YOU can change – your attitude or your ability to communicate would be a good start. Look at your own brokenness before you look at others' brokenness.
· Consider the pre-existing criteria that you have for this person – is your love of control skewing your ability to love this person?
· People are not ours to be “fixer-upper” projects. Go beyond the superficial similarities you admire in them. Love them for who they are without any expectation.
Re-evaluate your definition of love: A wise priest once said that God wants us to go so far as to almost unravel and love to the point of the other betraying us. We die to ourselves in relationships out of love for the beloved’s freedom. I know that it is when my heart breaks that my heart expands and that is the mystery of unconditional love. We need to learn to love without expectation of reciprocation because love is selfless. I know it is hard because we want to give and expect something in return. For your own peace of mind, forget about what you invested in that person or in the relationship and don't count the cost. When we surrender, we won’t expect a return and won’t be disappointed. Are your relationships growing your capacity to love? Are you succumbing to anger or are you choosing charity?
When we love without expectation, we can never be betrayed. Love does not control. Love challenges! Challenge your loved ones but also challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to love deeper and to love wholeheartedly. Let us strive to be better not bitter.
I love this quote by Nina Simone: “You have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served.” Love does not point fingers. Love does not condemn or resent. Love is faithful. Love offers. So let us “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour” - Romans 12:10. Make love your aim.
Let us Pray
Lord, please fill my heart with Your love for the difficult people in my life. Please let me see them as You see them. Use them to refine me as the woman You created me to be. Help me to love and to forgive as You did. I choose to thank You for the difficult relationships, knowing that through these people, Your work is accomplished in me. I hold onto that promise rather than the hurt and I pray that You will bless my willingness to love and to obey Your will. May I wash my enemies' feet like you did and set an example of love.