It seems that everywhere I look there are people that are going out of their way to annoy me! People who insist on driving at 45mph even though the limit is 65mph. People who have personal phone conversations on the train. People who chew with their mouths open. The list could take up this entire column!
There are situations however that go beyond ‘annoying’, situations that can affect us in serious ways. I was recently speaking to some friends who run a franchise business and the franchise director is really making life very difficult for them, to an extent that it is affecting their ability to run their business. The director tells lies, is obnoxious and rude. More than just affecting business though, when we encounter people like this it can adversely affect our happiness. We begin to boil on the inside, it consumes us at work and at home, we begin to hate the person and are led into personal sadness and depression.
These sorts of situations will play out for all of us in different ways through our lives but how can we respond? It seems to me that there really are only two answers, we can burn with hate for the person, or, we can burn with love for the person. Love?! What?!
The person who is causing us harm and grief in whatever way, is most often acting out of their own pain. They might be having family problems; perhaps they are insecure or lonely. Mother Teresa often spoke of loneliness as the greatest poverty especially in the modern Western world, and even a person who appears to have it all (family, career, assets, etc.) can be deeply lonely. Whatever it is there is there is probably a pain in their heart.
Our encounter then with the person who is causing us so much grief should before anything else be seen as an opportunity to show love. One of my all time favourite movie scenes is in the film “Karol” which tells the story of the life of Karol Wojtyla prior to him being elected as Pope John Paul II. Karol lived as a Bishop in Poland, which suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Once they had moved out, the communists moved in. Both movements were ones of hate. Seeing the Church as their largest threat, the communist leaders planted spies all around Bishop Wojtyla. One particular spy was sent as a student into Wojtyla’s university lectures. The spy also bugged the confessional to find anything he could which would accuse Wojtyla of encouraging a violent up rise against the regime. Day in and day out this spy listened to the pain in the hearts of those who came to confession and he heard the love of Christ that was offered to them by Wojtyla. In a very moving scene, the man, who could no longer live with himself, approaches Wojtyla to confess to being a spy, “Even though I hated you, your words slipped inside of me like water through a crack. You speak of love. Such a sick word.” And with that he broke down in the forgiving arms of the future Pope.
The point is that we all know the typical response to those who cause us pain. It is to cause them pain back. But there is another way, and amazingly there is no weapon against it. Love will break down any barrier because every hardened heart, every cruel boss, every offensive individual we meet desires love.
But it is not enough just to smile at the person when we see them and avoid them like the plague the rest of the time. We need to love them, actively. In the auto biography of St Therese of Liseux she tells the story of a particular nun who irritated her to no end and made her life miserable. Therese reaches a point where she writes “I reminded myself that sentiments of charity were not enough; they must find expression, and I set myself to treat her as if I loved her best of all.” Therese loved this fellow nun not just in words but with actions. She looked past what displeased her to see the person with all their pain, and their hurt but also their gifts and talents.
Whoever is causing you trouble is not going to be any worse than the communist spy but even if they are, the key is to love them, love them actively, love them like you would love the most important person in your life. You will turn your difficult satiation around but most important you will genuinely help someone and become a better person yourself.
Copyright Bernard Toutounji 2015
Image Creative Commons http://pixabay.com/en/brothers-family-siblings-boys-love-457237/