I just discovered what is the best, most honest, funny, hopeful, amazing blog. In fact, I’m a little mad I discovered it only just now. Have you heard of Momastery? Please, whatever else you do today, make some time to read and be inspired by the writings of Glennon Doyle Melton. Seriously, her words are that important.
Glennon is a recovering alcoholic and bulimic. She is a wife and mother and sister to her thousands of followers. She is a writer, the kind of writer that takes those impossible things that you could never express and eloquently and honestly shares those stories. She talks about hard things. The kinds of things we fight our whole lives to keep secret because we’re ashamed or embarrassed or sad or lonely or tired or numb. She takes those fiercely protected secrets and blurts them out and makes us realize how universal our very personal secret problems and issues are, shared by so many in the world.
I loved reading post after post, partly because I’m so proud of the growth and progress I’ve made in my own life, but also because it highlighted and normalized those things I still do that I’m not proud of. It feels so empowering to recognize my successes and also have the courage to look at those areas that still need refining.
One of those areas that needs loads of refining is dismissing or excluding people that I find hard to love. I have two people in my life right now that I find extremely hard to love. One is obnoxious, selfish, arrogant, and boastful. The other is sad, anxious, harsh, and exhausted.
For a while now, I’ve felt absolutely justified in creating as much distance as I can between them and myself because who would want to be friends with people who acted like that? Even though they have completely different personalities, when I’m around one of them, I feel the fun and life and inspiration getting sucked out of me. I find it so hard not to have an emotional reaction even when I just think of them.
The second time I went to Africa, my friend and mentor, Kathy Headlee Miner, gave me a challenge to write down all of my fears. I was pretty good at lying to myself back then and even though so much of my life was real happiness, I would dismiss things that I thought were negative like being lonely or worried. I thought if you were happy then you couldn’t have any troubles in your life. The biggest culprit was using gratitude as a way to say those things shouldn’t hurt or scare me because I have so much to be thankful for. I am the queen at avoiding hard emotions. It took a long time to make my list and get honest with myself, but by the end, I had some insightful, rather telling list of fears.
I had a few that I thought were pretty normal, universal fears. I am afraid of disappointing other people. I am afraid of being left behind or being alone. But the one that fuels a lot of my anxieties in life is I am afraid of other people ruining my experience. Ruining it by taking over, or not caring, or getting in the way.
As Kathy and I worked on ways to help me deal with my list of fears, she talked about one of her favorite parts from the Sermon on the Mount, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” She said when we read this, we usually think of praying for enemies that their hearts will be softened and will stop being jerks. And while we should pray for such things, she said we would be wise to start praying for enemies to enter our lives as if we were asking for them like we would blessings. Enemies teach us so much about ourselves and often our true colors are shown under duress and persecution instead of peace. They give us the opportunity to experience growth in ways that might otherwise not be possible.
So as I think about those two seemingly unlovable people in my life, I try to look beyond those annoying or depressing qualities that seem to dominate their personalities. I try to recognize that what I’m primarily feeling is that I’m afraid that they might ruin my experience in that moment. I try to look for ways to interact with them and involve them in my experience instead of shutting them out. I learn to sit with those uncomfortable feelings and let them pass so I can feel empathy instead of judgement, peace instead of frustration, and love instead of loathing.
Of course, if one of these people was Kim Jong Un, then maybe he’d deserve a little loathing. Luckily mine just need love and kindness and service and not an intervention from the UN. The last thing they need is one more person who dreads being around them, which I’m sure they sense and just fuels their sadness and shame. And the last thing that I need is focusing my energy on my self-righteous notions of why I’m more well behaved or pleasant to be around when I could be making them feel welcome not uninvited. My wise friend Kathy sums it up beautifully by saying, “When we serve each other we remember who we are, Whose we are, and who everyone else is.” When we serve with our whole heart, it is impossible not to love each other and see one another for who we really are.