This is going to sound terrible, but I promise… I’m really not a terrible person. What follows is just an unattractive truth.
Some people… are hard to love. And sometimes… we’re hard to love too.
My experience as a teacher has brought hundreds of students through my doors throughout the years, and I can genuinely say that while I’ve loved them ALL, they were NOT all easy to love.
Like my students, sometimes there are people in our lives that are hard to love. It’s not that we don’t love them, it’s just that maybe they challenge us with their stubbornness, inconsideration, inappropriate behaviors, idiosyncrasies, neediness, poor-planning skills, questionable decisions, attitudes, selfishness, or even their ungratefulness. The truth is we all have someone in our lives that test us. They seem to be more draining, than uplifting… more stressful, than encouraging… more investment, than reward.
Luckily for them, this is NOT a post about cleaning out the challenging relationship you have. It’s the opposite… because sometimes those people can’t and simply shouldn’t be disconnected from.
Despite my imperfections and brokenness, Jesus chose to love me through it.
While conversing with a good friend, we shared about the frustrating people in our lives that seemed to be weighing on us. In our venting and dissatisfaction of these relationships, we reflected on what a healthy form of these relationships would look like and considered how we could contribute to that health, rather than support the deterioration of it.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you […] If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:43-48
Granted we aren’t perfect like our Heavenly Father, but He still encourages us to actively choose to love those ‘hard to love’. We need to strive to go beyond the norm of escaping, complaining, or ignoring, and do what Christ was compelled to do for us. He loved us and sacrificed for us, even when we didn’t deserve it. The truth is, it’s always easier to be kind, loving on those that are easy to love, but those aren’t necessarily the people that need your love the most. Whether in my classroom or in my real world relationships, those that I find most challenging are the ones that would benefit from asserted efforts to care and help them grow. And no… I’m not a saint or trying to be anyone’s savior. I’m nowhere near perfect… but my hope is that someone takes the time to love me through my challenging habits and brokenness, rather than give up on me. We need that from others, just as others may need it from you and me.
Who challenges you? Maybe it’s a friend, spouse, child(ren), colleague, parent…whoever it is… if you’re going to have a relationship with them, wouldn’t you prefer to have an encouraging and uplifting one?
Let’s take the opportunity to love those that are hard to love. Let’s meet them where they are by:
- Shifting to an “Attitude of Gratitude”. What about them are you thankful for? Try to think of ways they’ve positively impacted you, even in the smallest ways. Tell them, hopefully reinforcing that facet of them to shine more brightly.
- Adjusting your Perspectives. Give them the benefit of the doubt when approached with a challenging behavior. Seek to understand why they do that, or what the root might be. Ask them why they say or do certain things.
- Practicing Patience and Gentility. Sometimes people don’t know that they’re challenging and they don’t mean to be. With patience, love, and lots of gentility, try talking with them about what a healthier or more positive interaction would look like.
I already know that no one’s perfect. I’ve learned, relearned, and reminded myself though, that despite my imperfections and brokenness, Jesus chose to love me through it. AND…He challenges us to love even when it’s hard and seemingly too much work.
Let’s accept the challenge because as much as someone can be hard to love, I don’t think we could ever love too hard.