Loving thy neighbors … as themselves

Posted by on September 16, 2010 in women | 4 comments

Generally, I’m a likeable person. Or maybe I should say that I’m not a very dislikeable person. I tend to be thoughtful, quiet and respectful, and try for understanding and empathy over shouting my own opinions.

And, generally, I like most people. Except when I don’t. Mean people. People with overweening egos. People who don’t let me merge onto the freeway. People who are cruel. People who are hypocritical. People who don’t care what happens to the world around them, so long as they get their way. And people who take twenty minutes to bear their testimony … every month.

The problem is, I’m surrounded by these people. Sometimes I am these people. So, a while back, I decided that I needed to look a little deeper, search a little harder, and find things to like about people who I would normally dislike.

The coworker who is rigidly inflexible and tries to skirt around the  requirements every single schedule? I let our manager deal with her infractions. Other than her sometimes vexing personal qualities, she is an excellent nurse. If I were in the hospital, I’d want her to take care of me, even if I hated her while she was doing it.

My next door neighbor, who I only ever see outside when she is smoking (always outside her place, since she doesn’t want to stink up her condo)? I see that she is kind and congenial with another lady a few doors down. I also see how she patiently and kindly deals with her invalid husband, who always seems to be going to and from the hospital.

Bloggernacle denizens who make disparaging, call-to-repentance, get-out-of-MY-church or just inane comments? Well, sometimes that’s a little harder, since there can sometimes be so little context. Most of the time, I just don’t know what drives them. But I appreciate (mostly) their passion and willingness to interact on civil terms.

The important things for me to remember are:

  1. I can’t change anyone else, no matter how much I’d like to. The only person I can change is myself.
  2. There’s something to love about everyone. If I haven’t found at least one thing, I’m probably not trying hard enough.

Well, there you have it. What I like to call Commandment #2a. Not exactly the Golden Rule, but the sifting-for-the-gold rule.

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4 Comments

  1. I like that twist on the Great Commandment. My father-in-law is fond of saying, “Everyone has to be SOME way.” (And as a psychiatrist, he’s seen a lot of those ways). I have encountered a handful truly cruel/abusive individuals, and I usually assume there is some deep wound and/or mental illness driving it . . . but I frankly try to keep my distance for maliciousness.

    But most people in my life? They are who they are and they have to be SOME way. (Heavens knows the way I must annoy some people!) I find that if I try to imagine them as Kindergartners, it can be easier to “feel the love” — also leads to some funny imaginings . . .

  2. I’m about to be inane, sorry. Thanks for this post. Learning patience, love, and to give the benefit of a doubt is the work of a lifetime. God help us all on the uphill journey!

  3. Really nicely said.

  4. Nice post, Dora!

    Bloggernacle denizens who make disparaging, call-to-repentance, get-out-of-MY-church or just inane comments? Well, sometimes that’s a little harder, since there can sometimes be so little context. Most of the time, I just don’t know what drives them. But I appreciate (mostly) their passion and willingness to interact on civil terms.

    I have this problem too. Like you said, lack of context can make it much more difficult. I think that’s one reason I really tend to enjoy streams of comments that involve people telling stories about themselves, or when they just insert bits about their lives into comments, or the occasional thread that turns into just shooting the breeze. All these provide a little more context.

    But in the end when I still find people frustrating to talk to online, I take some comfort in the thought that they probably find me just as irritating as I find them. And any third parties who are reading our exchanges are probably shaking their heads equally at both of us. :)

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