on how to love people even when you don't particularly like them

It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that I am way too competitive about things that really, really don’t matter. Mostly board games. Don’t play Monopoly or Words with Friends with me, because I will cheat. I used to memorize Trivial Pursuit cards. In high school I’d check out reference books from the lib just so other people couldn’t. Stupid. It’s a manifestation of my perfectionism epidemic that I’m trying to get rid of, but more on that later. The point is, I’m competitive. 

The other day, I was talking to someone about how much I love my spin class back home, and they made a comment about how they’d beat me in a class. And my initial thought? “Yeaaaah…there’s literally no way that will ever happen.” My trainer (what up, Leon!) calls me the “work horse” of the crew, and at first I was put off by that, but actually it just reaffirms that I’m a BA on that dang bike, and now I’m trying to figure out of I can get both of us to a spin class because that comment just flipped the “Nope. Gotta prove you wrong!” switch in my brain. 

But this is not a blog about being competitive. It’s a story about a realization I had in spin class while I was being competitive. Full circle, see?

The scene: 6am spin class a few weeks ago. Not quite halfway though a 6-minute full-resistance-sweat-is-dripping-from-the-tip-of-my-nose-I-am-disgusting-but-also-a-boss hill climb. And the woman to my left decides that now is a good time to vent her frustrations to the entire class that her six-year-old doodled all over the back of her SUV with a Sharpie. Among various other things. My initial thought? “Lady, SERIOUSLY, now is not the time, and you are really knocking me out of my groove and my quads are on fire and seriously you’re the worst person in the world, stop talking while LMFAO is doin their thang.” A bit much. I’m not very nice to people in my head at 6am spin class. 

But you know what? Maybe that’s just what she needed to do. Maybe she doesn’t get to vent anywhere else. Maybe people don’t listen to her well at work or home or wherever. Me? I like to focus and get on dat grind and channel my inner Jillian Michaels (“if you’re not dead or throwing up, keep going”). But who am I to get all snappy at this woman in my head and toss her in my “people I now do not like” category? I do it to people at the grocery store for walking too slowly. Or people in the library for chewing too loudly. For stupid things; it’s a stupid system. I don’t even like the system. And you know, I don’t really believe in that system in the first place and am trying really hard to purge myself of it. Instead, I’m working on a new system:

1. We are all doing the best we can.
2. We all have blind spots. (See also: Rule #1) 

I’m sure there are exceptions to those, but I can’t think of many, but these are the two key ingredients in the way I look at people now. There are people, and then there are things about people. Like, maybe you’re a librarian or maybe you really like Twilight or maybe you think it’s stupid that I put up my Christmas tree before Halloween sometimes. Those things…shouldn’t affect how I feel about you as a person. I think that’s the way Jesus loves people. And I’m really thankful for that. I love you, and you can insult me or lie to me or talk crap about me or say that you could out-beast me in spin class. I don’t really care. Maybe they’re things you say or think or do because you’re in survival mode (see Rule #1) or you’re going through something really hard and God forbid you do something that’s hurtful to someone without knowing it (see: Rule #2). Throw it at me. I don’t want to let things that people do or say that have the potential to hurt me affect the fact that I love them. And I don’t mean that like…”I love you, and I also love my Hunter rainboots,” — I mean that I love you because your life is valuable and I believe in you and want you to feel cared about and secure in something. That’s a lot easier if you believe in a higher power, which I do, but I want you to feel that support regardless. I want people to know that I believe in them and that life is hard and we’re not perfect and that’s okay.  I don’t want people to feel like they’re going to mess up big and really disappoint me in life and that I’m going to call it quits on our relationship. I don’t believe in that either. 

The benefit of all this? Protection. People are going to hurt you. Deeply. I promise. Some days, it’ll be me. Some days it’ll be people that I never expected it from. Strangers, people close to you, your family, whoever. Sometimes it’ll be intentional, sometimes it won’t be, and I’m not sure which is worse. But it’ll happen, you can count on it. And when it happens, whether it’s big or little, it’s really helpful for me to remember that I love people because I love people. I don’t love people because they’re nice to me or because they haven’t ticked me off enough times to go down on my “love you” meter — none of this ”what’s in it for me?” deal. This makes it so much easier to forgive people when they hurt or disappoint me. Even if they’re not sorry. Even if they didn’t realize it. Even if it was intentional. Seriously, I feel so free to love people since I’ve stopped looking at relationships as some sort of cost analysis system. People need to know that they’re loved and important and that somebody cares about them, and I don’t want to pick and choose around that…who’s “worth my love” and “who isn’t” — I’m not very efficient with loving people, I tend to overdo it, and burn out on it sometimes. But the other 99% of the time it makes me feel alive and like I’m doing what I’m designed to do, whether that’s having coffee with someone or helping high school kids one day or being a life coach or mom or whatever. A good friend of mine tweeted something the other day about how if the way Jesus loved people moved them to fullness, then my guilting and shaming (and competitive nature…) will probably do the opposite. And then one of my favorite Donald Miller quotes is something to the effect of  ”When you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Yeah. Sit with that. I’d like to give up the competition and the judging and the “I’m better than you in spin class” because the last thing people need from me is to make them feel like life is a competition that they aren’t winning. Mostly, I just want to be kind.

Closing thought. People are going to hurt you. I’m going to hurt you. I’m not always going to live up to expectations or control my temper or make sure that hurtful things don’t come out of my mouth. But remembering that we’re all struggling with something, and that we’re all doing the best we can, and sometimes we’re just trying to get through the day and do or say hurtful things either with or without realizing it…I don’t know. There’s just something about being able to let all that go instead of holding onto it and letting it keep you from being a presence of grace and freedom and love and kindness. People need those things, I need those things. You need those things. You need to give them to others, but it starts with being able to give them to yourself. 

One of the most important things anyone has ever said to me was at a low point in my story with depression when I felt like I was letting a lot of people down; I said to her, “Alright, give it to me straight, I need discipline, I need to know what I’m doing wrong.” And all she said was “What, punish you? Why would I do that? You’re doing that to yourself enough already.” 

Maybe you are too, friend.  

Amanda PhillipsComment