I was griping to a friend about a person who just didn’t seem to like me. This guy avoided me when we were in the same place. He dismissed my ideas with a smirk and a sneer. When I reached out to him with a smile and pleasant small talk, he was cold. “What’s wrong with him?” I complained. “Is it me?”
“There are a handful of people in the world who can’t stand you,” my friend said. “You’ve run into one of them. If you’re lucky, you won’t meet very many of the others. It’s not you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Nothing, that is, except to continue try to act charitably toward this guy whenever we are together. But I realized that I didn’t need to work very hard on this relationship. And it was also helpful to know that there are other people in the world who won’t like me no matter how hard I try. I’m going to rub them the wrong way. I’ll remind them of someone who did them wrong. Who knows why. It’s good to know this in advance. I don’t have to be upset when I meet them. I’ll give them a wide berth and get on with my life.
This got me to thinking about the opposite situation—the rare person who thinks that I’m the greatest guy they ever met. They praise me to the skies. They tell others I can do no wrong. This is obviously irrational, and I make a big mistake when I take it seriously. Their over-the-top praise is as dangerous as the hostility of the people who can’t stand me. I might believe it.
And what about me? Am I one of these people for someone else—someone who can’t stand them on sight, someone who thinks they can do no wrong? Judge not, that you be not judged.
If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Sometimes I feel like that about myself!
I don’t know where I found this prayer but it helps
2 Oh Lord enlighten our minds that we may come to know ourselves without any fear whatsoever. Help us to see our imperfections in the light of Thy infinite purity
Give us strength to break completely with these imperfections.
We beseech Thee to supply with Thy divine power what is lacking to lour weak human nature.
Thanks Jim. Thus wrote Mahatma Gandhi: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is really fear.”
I worked with someone who actively had it in for me. Very difficult situation. At times it made my work life miserable. I noticed that he did the same with some others, so I could factor that in. Still: in this life, we’re called to remain open to others. I don’t know think that this requires us to submit to abuse. Giving a wide berth to someone who dislikes you, for whatever reason, is a reasonable response; probably the best. Certainly better than retaliation or simmering anger! Remaining open to the situation changing and then responding positively is perhaps the best approach.
All part of lifes wondrous journey we meet all sorts, those whom we like and bond with, and those who for whatever reason just do not like us and may even make it known. All we can do is say a silent prayer and dare I say it even turn the other cheep!! Wonderful thought provoking article.
A most thought-provoking article, thanks Jim. I’m intrigued by your phrase “I’ll give them a wide berth and get on with my life.” Jesus’ life and message was about confronting (in the best possible way) and not giving anyone a wide berth. His message was for every one. Sometimes it’s not about personal animosity but about power structures and the use/misuse of such. I am at the moment reading some of Augustine’s “Confessions” and he is clear-eyed about his contrition and thanksgiving. Augustine is worth reading again and again, just as we wake every morning to a new day.
Thank you, Jim. Once again you deliver a spiritual message from real life that is practical and useful. You offer a way out of self-absorption to spiritual freedom. I was agonizing over such a baffling situation and a wise elder told me, “What that person thinks of you is absolutely none of your business.” It takes grace, and practice, to come to believe that. But what relief I find when I can let it go.
Great post! I’ve not often experienced the friend who thinks I “walk on water” ,though I have friends who see my best qualities) and I’ve not often encountered someone who just couldn’t stand me on sight-thank goodness, although I did have a workplace encounter with a Jesuit colleague a number of years ago whose behavior towards me had me “griping” for the reasons you describe. I have encountered the qualities you describe in the (competitive) workplace where the behavior of an individual or individuals competitive spirit possesses those negative qualities. Presently, I work in a l workplace where some of those challenges are apparent. To quote Mary Mary above, it “is a real lesson in patience and humility.’ The” negative” experience(s) invites us (me) to be defensive and return “negative” with “negative” which is not who I desire to be. Finding the good will is indeed a challenge. Thanks for your insight regarding “detachment.”
I love “discombobulating.” The word suggests confusion and embarrassment–with a touch of farce. That just about sums up the situation. Thank you MaryMary.
So discombobulating! As long as this does not happen frequently (and by your response it would seem it does not), the baffling sensation of “What did I do? I was just being me, yet my very existence offends!” is a real lesson in patience and humility.