“The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him.”
― Joseph Heller, Catch-22
"The Trench" has me thinking a lot about relationships. (Thanks, Christian)
And in particular I’ve been preoccupied with the difference between “like’” and “love.”
We spend a lot of time differentiating the two, for good reason, yet we still see them as connected. We often think of “love” as something that is born out of “like.”
We like someone, spend time with them, and fall in love. Or we find a great pair of shoes we like and after we wear them enough (even if they kill our feet) they turn into something that we love.
If “like” determined “love,” then I’m in trouble: I don’t get along with every single person I meet.
I don’t think that’s because I’m difficult to get along with (though opinions on that may vary). I think it’s just because, in my 27 years of life, I’ve met a lot of people.
A lot of really awesome people I adore.
And a lot of people I’m not interested in. (I’m fairly sure the feeling is mutual)
But when we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, I still have to love the people I don’t like. And people have to love me even when they find me quirky and loud.
I’m looking at you, sisters.
Last week on “The Trench” Christian talked about the responsibility he has to different people in his life. He walked us through how prioritizing his time and effort protects the relationships he holds most dear, and the people he is most responsible to.
This was a helpful reminder that I can’t prioritize everyone I meet, because I’ll enjoy different levels of intimacy and closeness with different people.
Because I’m not going to like everyone equally. And, to be honest, I won’t like some people at all.
And that’s okay. I don’t have to like everyone. I can only have so many best friends who’ll share my deepest secrets and struggles, I can only have so many good friends to share a Saturday night.
And that’s ok: as long as I remember that I still need to love the people I don’t like.
Because even though I may not like someone enough to hang out, that can’t be an excuse to disregard them, or even hurt them. Even though we don’t get along, we are still neighbors. And we’re all called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Even if we don’t like them.
But when we create a strong connect between “like” and “love,” this begins to change. We can treat the people we don’t like terribly, whether it’s the kid that’s not cool enough in high school or the coworker that’s just so painfully annoying. We allow ourselves to believe that, just because we don’t have warm feelings for someone, we don’t need to be patient or kind or understanding with them.
It’s a balance I struggle to strike.
Because it’s not clear what it looks like to love those you don’t like. I only have so much time and energy to give and, on a day to day basis, I’m going to spend most of that on the people I’m closest to. On a day to day basis, the people I love are probably going to be the people I also like.
But I need to be careful because, if I’m honest, there are days I don’t like my friends, and there are days I don’t like my family. Every relationship goes through rough patches, and those difficulties can tempt us to withdraw our love, because the way we think about “love” and “like” forces our love to be conditional. It forces us to extend our love only to the people we happen to like.
So while it’s okay that I don’t want to spend my Saturday hanging out with someone I don’t get along with, it’s not okay for me to be a jerk to that person. And after I walk out of a delicious brunch, it’s not okay for me to walk past a hungry person without giving him a second thought.
I’m not going to like everyone, and honestly, that’s not my goal. I’m working to love everyone, to offer everyone the kindness and mercy that I receive from God. Even if I don’t have enough time and energy to offer every single person, in exactly the same way, I can at least offer them a place in my heart. I can offer them a place in my prayers as I offer my life up to the Lord.
It’s a place I’ll set aside for you, whether I like you or not.
Charissa is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. Charissa grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah where she studied political science at the University of Utah. She enjoys sunshine, the mountains and snowcones. Charissa currently lives in New York City.