Love Thy Enemy and Other People You Can’t Stand

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We all have that person/people we just can’t stand to be around.  They wronged us.  They’re selfish, demanding, controlling, mean-spirited, and/or negative.  When we’re around them, they make our blood boil and we just want to bolt or wallow in a chocolate binge.

I was never sure which was more upsetting – being near someone I couldn’t stand, or the fact that I couldn’t stand being near them.  I mean, why should their presence upset me?  Ruin an otherwise lovely event or meeting?  (I realize “lovely meeting” is an oxymoron but you know what I mean.)  It just makes it worse when that person seems completely oblivious to their effect on others.

The problem with this scenario of allowing someone else to rock my boat – justified or not – is that I’m giving away my power.  In other words, I’m allowing someone else to control how I feel.  If I spend five minutes, no  – one minute, feeling any less peaceful, content or happy with my life because of someone else, then I’ve let that someone “win.”

Illegitimi non carborundum” (translation:  don’t let the bastards get you down) – World War II British army intelligence

The solution is to avoid going there in the first place.  I realize that’s easier said than done, but I feel like it’s well worth the effort.

First, realize that by treating that person as a problem, obstacle or a happiness/joy black hole, I am objectifying  them.  Dehumanizing them.  I am treating them like an object, a thing, not a person with feelings, dreams, and (this may be a stretch here sometimes) good intentions.  Sounds like I’m the person with the problem.

Second, view that person instead with compassion and empathy.  Usually if someone is acting so unreasonably, selfishly or negatively it must mean that they are struggling with their fear, control issues, confidence or ability to see the world as a loving place.  I imagine them as a scared child, and see that their actions are being driven by their hot buttons, not their better angels.  He who has never acted or spoken based upon their hot buttons can probably never understand this concept, but I would hazard a guess that we’ve all been there, done that.

In addition, remember that the characteristic in someone else that drives you nuts is the thing you hate/fear about yourself.   A friend recently said, “but I hate lazy, ineffective people, and I don’t think I’m lazy or ineffective.”  This would fall into the latter category of something you may fear you may find in yourself.  For example, people who are driven to work hard and excel may have an underlying belief that tells them they are not worthy/lovable/valuable/a good person unless they demonstrate their competence and productivity.  Such people may work very hard to avoid their feelings of incompetence – a feeling they hate in themselves.

Third, forgive that person.  It’s easy to forgive them when I see their scared child.  I’ve said in this blog many times that “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself” (Suzanne Somers) and I truly believe that. Forgiveness lightens the spirit and opens the heart, regardless of whether I think they deserve it.  It’s for me, not for them.  Plus, I’ve  just identified that quality in the person that I fear that I may share with them.  So, I can forgive yourself, while I’m at it.

Finally, approach that person now with love, compassion, and empathy. Once I do the above three steps, the last step is surprisingly easy, because I am no longer judging either of us, and now I can bring my best self to the dynamic.  You may be surprised how healing, powerful and affirming it is to approach difficult people with love and empathy, not only for you but also for the person you are no longer treating like something you found on the bottom of your shoe.  They may also just find that you’re not being as difficult as they once thought and forgive you too.

My assistant’s tag line on her email has been “I choose love.”  And she does.  And so should we all, especially when it’s hardest to do.

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8 thoughts on “Love Thy Enemy and Other People You Can’t Stand

  1. Great points! It’s never been easy for me to do these steps, but I have always experienced those ‘annoying’ people differently when I have.
    Projecting our fears on other people can be disastrous, and hinder our own ability to improve ourselves.
    Thank you for such a great reminder!

  2. You’re right on Susanna! I wonder if this post addresses the ultimate human challenge? Or maybe there’s much more beyond it, and I just haven’t gotten there yet! 🙂

    1. Once that sunk in for me, it wasn’t hard any more. What’s hard is knowing it and STILL getting frustrated by others. Then I feel like a hypocrite!

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