Have you ever thought about what makes someone unloveable? Do you find it hard to love the difficult person in your life? Maybe they are unkind, controlling, annoying or don’t like other people.
On the flip side, what makes a person loveable? Is it the things they do or say. Does it matter how friendly, sweet, or fun they are? Maybe it’s how much they love other people?
It sometimes seems like the people who like us most are the easiest to love. The thing is, our brains get confused. Here is a little secret. What makes someone loveable is that you choose to love them. It has nothing to do with who you love but your capacity or ability to love other people.
One of the great things about life is we get to have different opinions and preferences, and we’re blessed with various capacities and experiences all affecting how we view other people.
I thought it would be fun to glean from the wisdom of some of my blogger friends. So I asked them: How do you choose to love the difficult people in your life? I appreciated their honesty and insight — and I’m sure you will too!
We all have opportunities to love others who are difficult.
I get it. I’ve had family members decide they don’t like me and are fine if they never talk to me. Ever. And I’ve been flipped off numerous times by strangers.
And it’s all good. It really is.
I don’t think returning hate for hate is the answer. Yes, it spreads hate, but the bigger reason for me is selfish. When I respond with hatred, I feel horrible! When I am thinking or feeling negative things about someone else, I am the one who feels terrible. I suffer. Here’s the great news: I know I can opt out of that emotion.
I know I can decide to love instead. It makes me feel so good.
I’d rather do the work to choose love than give in to my knee-jerk reaction to get defensive, offended, or judgemental. When I am reactive, I become disempowered.
Unconditional love comes from a decision. Sometimes we have to decide over and over. It’s like forgiveness. Sometimes we have to forgive the same person over and over again. And that is okay.
It makes it easier to love others when we choose to love ourselves first. All of us. Our mistakes, our extra weight, our short-comings. The whole package. If we have trouble loving ourselves or give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, we struggle to do the same for others. When we cut ourselves some slack, accept our flaws and imperfections, we can easily see when others are “practicing” or trying their best.
We can change our entire lives by noticing our thoughts and emotions. By becoming aware of what we are thinking and feeling, we can start to change.
And when we change our thoughts, we change our lives.
It’s a simple formula. Easy? Not for me. I imagine it’s a life long work: to consciously choose to love and let go. It’s okay. I’m totally game because I know I’m the one who wins.
I don’t choose to see people as “toxic” or difficult, that doesn’t mean toxic relationships don’t exist. I know relationships can be difficult. In my experience, however, whenever I focus on the other person being “difficult,” I’m giving that person a portion of my ability to be happy.
I prefer not to lose some of my power to the idea someone is trying to make my life difficult. The truth is, the “difficulty” usually comes from the stories I tell myself about the other person’s behavior, from a belief that they intended to hurt me. I never can really know anyone else’s intentions, so why does it benefit me to focus on the idea that anybody is trying to hurt me — even if they are?
Here’s my way of looking at it.
A relationship involves more than the other person — it also includes me. The only person I have control over is myself.
The law of vibration states that I attract who I am being. So I have learned to ask myself “what do I want from my relationships?” and then I turn my focus inward and look for those things inside myself. In other words, I see ways to strengthen my relationship with myself.
Sometimes this means I intentionally distance myself from the other person to focus less on the difficulty and more on how I want to feel. Other times, the distance happens naturally because I attract who I am being, and sometimes the relationship is strengthened merely because the focus changed.
I love to look at other people not as having an intention to hurt me but as doing the best they can with what they have. I know I wouldn’t want anyone to consider me as difficult or toxic, and I honestly believe (and I know there are exceptions to every rule) it’s not my job to judge whether or not someone has bad intentions toward me. My job is to nurture the good in myself and to look for the good in others~and what I focus on, I find.
A long time ago, when I was getting frustrated by bad choices other drivers made on the road, I had a thought take root in my mind to help keep me from getting angry. I realized sometimes I make mistakes while driving too. I would want others to forgive me when I mess up, and so I try to do the same.
I work to remember we are all doing our best. Applying this principle, to life in general, means when someone is hurtful or challenging to get along with, I take a step back and realize they are doing the best they can with the tools they’ve been given — just like the rest of us.
The key to dealing with difficult people in my life, I have learned, is to make sure I don’t mirror that person. Don’t judge them because they judge me, don’t criticize them for criticizing me, or be mad at them because they’re mad at me. It comes down to realizing the one thing they don’t have control of is my feelings, I do.
Harboring anger towards someone is just punishing myself for someone else’s mistakes. It does no good. I’ve also learned you can love someone who doesn’t love you back and there’s nothing they can do about it 😉 Learning how to return love for hate is the hardest thing anyone can do, but it feels so much better.
The thing that has helped me love difficult people the most is learning to love myself better. I think a lot of people have heard — in some way, shape, or form — the admonition to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Well, if you don’t love “thyself” very well, it can be that much more challenging to love a person who is already challenging to love.
Knowing, truly knowing, I’m worth respect, love, and compassion allow me to create healthier boundaries with people who tend not to give those things. Those healthier boundaries can create less time with that individual or just different kind of time with him/her.
I think that this concept of loving ourselves and finding the right boundary for each relationship in our lives is a process, a journey. You’re going to make mistakes — we all do. But people who are worth keeping around are those who will work with you to stick around.
We run into difficult people in our lives for various reasons. Maybe it is the lady who cut in front of us at the pickup line or the man who offended us by questioning why you have so many kids. We can either allow these situations to run our lives or choose to view them differently.
One way I have decided to overcome difficult circumstances and love more is by giving others the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps the lady who cut in front of you in line is picking up kids for a friend. Helping her friend is going to make her late to her doctor’s appointment. Or the man who questioned you for having so many kids — maybe he never experienced the joy of parenting because his wife died at an early age leaving him a widower.
We never really know what is going on in someone’s life. Or why people are sometimes challenging to be around. When we give others the benefit of the doubt it makes it so much easier to love them.
When I’m dealing with someone, and it feels like we’re looking at each other over a chasm, I have to remember my end goal is love. Learning to deal with a person is not the same as learning to love a person.
I work to understand his/her personality, and I work to make sure my thoughts and expectations are serving me well, but the goal is love. Love is what will make the differences between us unimportant. Love is the magic eraser.
How Do You Love the Difficult Person in Your Life?
Pretty great responses, right? So as you were reading was there a challenging person who came to mind?
What would you say, or think about this person? If you were to give a one-sentence summary, what would it be? What makes it most challenging to love them? What denies or blocks feelings of love?
Here’s a news flash for you — Every human being is 100% loveable precisely as they are. The truth is it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with your ability to love. You get to choose.
It’s interesting how our brains are experts when it comes to noticing what we don’t like; they are so good at pointing out words, actions, and opinions to make a person seem difficult.
When we allow those thoughts to generate negative emotions it doesn’t feel good. We automatically assume it is the person who is making us feel bad when it’s really our thoughts about the person.
The thing is, none of those emotions feel good.
When we think negative thoughts about another person it doesn’t punish them or make them want to change; in fact, they are often unaware of what is even going through your mind. No, we mostly punish our self when we feel those feelings.
Love is not a one and done kind of deal — love them and check off the box. What it comes down to is a continuous work of letting go of the negative thoughts and embracing the good within them.
Stop believing this person should be different than they are and choose to love them because love always feels better.
One last thing to remember. When we choose to love someone it doesn’t mean you don’t protect yourself from them. Loving doesn’t mean we approve or condone their behavior. We can’t change someone and make them different than they are. We can only love them for the good we choose to see.
Leave a comment about how you’ve chosen to love a difficult person in your life?
Originally published at www.choosingwisdom.org.