Let’s be honest, regardless of how spiritual we are and how much love we have in our hearts, we are going to encounter people in our lives or things in the people in our lives that we don’t like. Ahhhhh…There I said it! And it feels good to just be real about these things, doesn’t it?
One of the pitfalls of doing personal growth work or going deep on the spiritual path is that we sometimes adopt unrealistic expectations of ourselves. One kernel of truth is that when we are present to the connectedness of all beings, we gain access to a place within from which we can truly love our enemy as our brother. Another truth is that true love is unconditional and that we do not have to do anything to earn it or become anything to be worthy of it. Another truth still is that we’re not going to like everyone we come to know and everything we experience in this life and that’s ok!
Now this is far from intended to be a license to go around being a jerk and treating people badly. In fact, it’s a tall challenge that I’m presenting. The question is: can you be present to a feeling of love for someone that you don’t like? Or can you be loving with a friend, spouse or colleague even when you’re being met with a behavior or trait that drives you up the wall? Can you look at the quality or behavior that you don’t like and learn something about yourself from it? Can you use your dislikes as cues to be more patient, more accepting and more tolerant?
Just in case you aren’t quite with me or this isn’t really resonating, I’ll give a personal example so you know what I’m talking about.
I love my mother. (You know where this is going…LOL). No but seriously, I REALLY love my mother. A lot. She is the most loving, caring, nurturing woman I know. She has always done anything and everything she could for me and she is a kick-ass mom through and through. She’s always ready to drop whatever she’s doing for those she loves. She carries the burden of her loved ones’ worries as if they are her own. She’s an amazing woman, mother, grandmother and doctor. I could go on, but you get the picture. So yeah, my mom’s the bomb, but guess what? Sometimes, she drives me effin’ nuts! There are instances where her way of doing things triggers me in ways I can’t even explain. It could be something as simple as her giving me a suggestion on what to order at a restaurant. Even though she’s coming from her motherly loving place and she takes pride in knowing what I like, I experience it as though I’m being treated like a child instead of a grown man and I don’t like it! (read in whiny voice) #irony
The point is that even though there are things my mom does that I “don’t like” or that totally push my buttons, I can always choose to look from that place in my heart where I love her and see the best in her. In fact, it’s in those moments that my love really gets to be put to the test. Can I look past the little things that drive me crazy and still be kind, patient, loving and receptive to her love? I’m working on it
From that perspective, it’s by being totally honest with ourselves about what we don’t like that the real spiritual work can happen. When we pretend to be saints who like everything and everyone, we cut ourselves off from the real opportunity to exercise our spiritual muscles. We have to start from where we are and that means being able to authentically own our human nature, which includes our dislikes.
And while we don’t really get to choose who our parents or siblings are, we do have a choice when it comes to who we’re friends with, who we work with, etc. Where those relationships are concerned, there is a freedom that comes with the willingness to own and acknowledge what we like and don’t like. We don’t have to be best friends with everyone and sometimes the most loving action we can take, both for ourselves and others, is to create space between ourselves and those with whom we just don’t vibe. That doesn’t make us bad people, or spiritually inferior. In fact, discernment is a measure of wisdom and sometimes the wise choice is to say no and set healthy boundaries.
Once again, there is a loving way to do this. We can be kind in declining an invitation. We can be gracious in the exchanges we do have with those who are like oil to our water. We can be grateful to those who may not be in total harmony with us for helping us to be clear about what we truly want. We can remain silent when the opportunity to gossip or speak badly about an ex or pain in the butt co-worker or friend arises.
So your mission for this week, if you choose to accept it, is to give yourself permission to admit what you don’t like and then to act from a place of love. See if you can use your dislikes as a cue pointing you in the direction of growth. Be honest with yourself about what triggers you and see if you can be more loving and discerning in those moments and with those people that challenge you most.
Written for The Daily Love (Dec. 2nd, 2012)