Learning to Love People You Don't Like

I wrote a book by that title.  It sold well.  Better than the earlliest edition of the book, titled, 'Father, Make Us One'.  I think people appreciate the 'realness' of the new title. It's hard to love some people.  If you're like me, I enjoy some people, patiently endure others, and actively seek to avoid a few.  That's brutally honest, but needs to be said if you're going to believe anything I write on this topic.

Love...real love...is not all about squishy, warm feelings of affection and devotion.  Love is hard.  At least, Jesus found it that way.

Jesus had a lot of disciples, and he chose to spend more time with some than others.

Jesus has to be our source of guidance when it comes to loving those we do church and life with.  I think we fear turning to Jesus’ words and example because deep down we know He is going to tell us to get over ourselves,  forgive and give everything up for people we hate being around.

But that is not the case.  Jesus also endured some of his disciples and avoided others.  Quite a few of his team members left him.  He confronted some of them, and a few, a small handful, became really close friends.

So how do we deal with loving people we don’t like?  Here are a few guidelines that have served me well over the years, hard learned guidelines, I might add:

1. Be honest with yourself and with God.  Spirituality is not genuine if it is not honest.  God loves truth in our inner selves.  Truth is not just who God is, a statement of doctrine, but also how we approach God.

So, if you are struggling to love or like someone, put words on that feeling to the Lord.  If they irritate you, tell God.  If they hurt you, express that to Him.  If they are offensive, say so to Him.  Tell God how you feel about that person...share with Him the deep truth of your heart.  He can handle it and you won't grow unless you're honest.

Tell him your struggles, then take the next step in the journey of healthy Jesus style love...

2.  ...ask God to let you see people with His eyes.  To see them as He sees them.  Seriously, this is not a spiritual cop-out.  If you want to mature in your love for people, you need to develop breadth in your love of people.

Get a bigger heart.  Ask God to help you grow greater breadth, greater capacity for loving people who are different to you.  If you want a greater influence on people for the kingdom of God, you need to grow in your appreciation of different kinds of people.

That doesn’t mean you are going to fall head over heals in love with every person you work with, but it does mean that you are going to learn to view them with respect and appreciation.  To have a greater awareness of their upbringing, their culture, their unique personality (given to them by God, by the way), and their special contribution to God's kingdom.

3.  Give yourself freedom to enjoy some friendships while you tolerate others.  You won't connect deeply with everyone.  You need some close friendships in your life if you are to survive and thrive as a leader.

4.  Lastly, work hard on overcoming pain and disappointment.  One of the greatest hindrances to loving the people we work with in a healthy way, is unresolved pain in our relationships.  If your reservoir of pain is getting bigger and bigger with time, the dam will eventually burst and anger, resentment, avoidance and all manner of negative emotions will flow out.

God teaches us to love by allowing, and sometimes even causing, us to be with people who offend or annoy us.  Don’t bury your irritation or pain with these people.  Don’t ignore your disappointments with them.  Deal with your pain daily with God.  Keep short accounts.  Pray for compassion.  Forgive them when they hurt you.  Keep on forgiving every time you think of them, until God releases His love in your heart for them.

Love is multi-faceted.  Set your sights on learning to love people you don't like.  Meanwhile, enjoy the ones you do! * To explore this topic further, you can order a copy of my book, 'Learning to Love People You Don’t Like' from our office in South Africa at 021-785-7201 or info@all-nations.co.za or you can order it from Amazon in other countries.