Take a minute to think of the person who annoys you most in your life, the one who always seems to find his or her way under your skin. That person who always seems to say the wrong thing at the wrong time and who most often brings out the worst in you. The person who knows every button to push to upset you. Now think about how you react when that person is in your midst. Do you try to avoid him or her? Do you find yourself saying things to or about him or her that you eventually come to regret? Does that person make you just plain grumpy for the rest of the day?
Not surprisingly, this is where my mind went when I read these words from Dorothy Day: “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” When I first stumbled upon this quote, I have to admit that it winded me as though I had been punched in the stomach. There are a few people that seem to know how to bring out the worst in me. I am not too proud of how I treat them. If Jesus himself were before me, I would never even dream of treating him that way. But here was this quote, laying it bare before me that I have indeed treated Jesus badly.
Perhaps I fell into a sort of “only see the good” approach of finding God in others. God is good, so I fooled myself into finding God only in people who are easy to love and in situations where it was easy to see the good in my behavior. Somehow, I doubt that’s what St. Ignatius had in mind. He encouraged us to find God in all things—the good, the bad, and even the annoying. When I put the face of Jesus on those few people in my life who excessively annoy me and prompt me to act less lovingly, that changes things.
I think many of us have the experience of knowing someone who brings out the worst in us but who is in our life whether we like it or not. While it seems easier to justify our behavior by pointing out the fault in theirs, the challenge will be to put Jesus’ face on them and to remember Jesus’ words: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:40).