My greatest spiritual struggle is to accept people as they are rather than find fault with the way they behave or talk or believe. It is the challenge to love a person even when I don't like that person.
People are often hard to like. I am thinking of several impatient friends who, in their anxiety, seem incapable of listening and so don't really get to know me as I am. Yet I must and do love them, even though I don't always enjoy their company.
It was refreshing to read an excerpt from Martin Luther King's Loving Your Enemies, in which he says, "it is almost impossible to like some people." How, he goes on, can we like someone who threatens us or impedes our progress? How can we feel affection for those who hate us?
But, he goes on, Jesus, in saying "love your enemies," recognized that "love" is greater than "like."
He did not say, "Like your enemies," which he knew to be impossible, but love them: look at the real person beneath the angry, fearful or anxious behavior pattern. Make the effort to understand. See in that person more than the behavior that hits you the wrong way: see the spark of goodness, of God's love, in that person, not allowing his faults to obscure who he or she really is.
The person within is not the same as the behavior pattern. In special people, the two are harmonious, but in many others, the loud, abusive or angry attitude we see and hear does not reflect the inner core of that person, which is generous, sensitive, and caring.
Making this distinction is what I am challenged to do--instead of criticizing and judging, which prevent me from loving and accepting others as they are.