Peel away all the layers of an onion, and at the center you will find emptiness; peel away all the layers of a human being, and at the center you will find the seed of God.
I believe that God has to be known by looking in the mirror.
Deepak Chopra, How to Know God
Some people some of the time seem absolutely alien to us. Our next door neighbors who would like to cut down our tree because they don’t like the sap it drops. The boss who ‘has it in for us.’ The ex-spouse who will not be satisfied with anything less than blood. Or it might be someone you get along with nearly always – except when they do that one thing, like the brother-in-law who insists on making jokes about bodily functions during lunch.
These are people who are in our life for better or for worse. Yet as people involved in a ‘spiritual life,’ we have this idea we’re supposed to love everybody. What do we do?
First, we don’t pretend to love what we don’t love in them. We refuse to ‘make a mood’ and pretend to be enlightened when we’re not. But also, we don’t react. We refrain from rolling our eyes or conspicuously counting to ten before responding.
Second, we don’t put our attention on what’s ‘wrong’ with them. Attention is a powerful force, and what we attend to will grow. So instead, we find one thing about them that is admirable, and put our attention there. We grow what is good. Maybe they took care with their hair today. Maybe they have nice shoes on. It doesn’t have to be much.
Third, we never discount anyone’s capacity for evolution. Everyone is capable of change. Everyone. If someone is still alive, they can evolve. We don’t get to write them off. We can’t ignore them. We can’t sit in active hatred of anyone.
We want to find a way to treat anyone and everyone with dignity and respect, maybe especially those who make it difficult for us.
One of the best approaches is to seek to be of service. Alcoholics Anonymous has a beautiful passage in their Big Book that suggests how we might approach someone who is perhaps less than easy to love:
This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”
We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.”
Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, pp. 66-67
I will find a way to be of service today to someone who consistently makes this difficult for me. (This service may take any form, perhaps even the form of staying out of this person’s path.)