I have heard a phrase “look for the good in everyone.” That’s probably not a bad thing. I am not advocating against that but I am going to suggest that it’s not enough and sometimes not effective. What if you search for the good in someone and can’t find it? It is possible that is a result of there not being any, or that your own personal bias is blinding you. Either way, you will have come to a standstill when you reach that point.
My suggestion is not to look for the good, but to look for the pain. This is not necessarily easier to find but I guarantee you that it is there. We all have pain – every single person who ever walked this earth has carried pain.
When I can not understand someone -what they did, what they said or how they are thinking, I look for their pain. Pain is a huge motivator so it is a likelihood that it could be a reason for behaviors and beliefs. Even if it is not the explanation for one event you were searching for answers for, it can still change the way you think about that person. When you know the pain another person carries, it gives you the opportunity to have empathy. You can chose to seize that opportunity or you can pass it by. Letting it go is your loss, not theirs. You can’t physically walk a mile in another persons shoes but you can begin to understand why their shoes are so ragged.
The catch – because there is almost always a catch, is that in order to know someones pain you need to get to know them. It means you have to lay down any offense you currently hold, you have to be willing to step closer to that person who may have hurt you. You may need to to this either physically so you can talk, but definitely emotionally and that is a high risk endeavor. In most cases they need to tell you their story. Sometimes you can learn things about someone from another person but that is not the best way. You need to be careful that you are not inciting gossip or talking behind someone’s back, so again the very best thing is to go to the person directly. This is very challenging when there has been an offense and you are hurting but if you really want healing and possibly restoration then you go to that person directly, and if they are willing to share their story you can find out what caused the pain that they carry.
You will always be able to relate to each other – not because your stories are identical, but because pain has one face and it hurts.
We all think love should look just one way. Love should equate to relationship – usually healthy and strong. I would like to propose that that notion is false.
There are people in my life (and thankfully quite a few) that are easy to love people. We do have that strong and healthy relationship. They get me- I get them. We enjoy each other’s company. We likely challenge each other because love also can include talking about mistakes and ways we can be better.
Then, in this broad spectrum, is a variety of people who are varying degrees of “less easy to love”. The relationship may have bumps and ripples. It may take more time, effort and resources to show love to these people, but I’m trying to do my best.
I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that God tells me I don’t have to love everyone- in fact I often find the exact opposite. This is where the greatest challenge comes because I find Christ asking me to love my enemies but also to not be a doormat. What do healthy boundaries look like with hard or impossible to love people. This is not a perfect black and white answer as so many Christians would like; moreso when they want to force a relationship with someone who doesn’t want one with them or they just want to judge someone else.
There are people that have said and done some hurtful, disrespectful and maybe even hateful things towards me. How do I love them? There are some people that I have wrestled with where those boundaries should lie and I believe that it lies with not having contact. Having contact would result in more wounding, anger and possibly even a reaction on my part that would be much less than loving. I didn’t come to this place in a moment decision. I didn’t come to this place as a form of retribution. I really believe that this is the most loving action I can do at this moment in time.
It saddens me to be here. I also constantly re-evaluate because at any time there could be a change and God could call me to take a step of faith to a different place. We should never be content that there is a broken relationship with someone but we also need to be ok that non contact can be a healthy and loving thing. The Bible says that as far as it lies with me, to be at peace with all men. Sometimes peace may mean distance. You can forgive from afar. You can forgive and not have relationship.
Life is not all roses and gum drops. Life is a journey with all kinds of twists and turns along the way. I will navigate some of those well – and others not so well. I don’t have to take everyone along for the ride but I will do my best to love. It’s going to look different to different people, and that’s ok.