“You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” – Matthew 5:43-45
A Jesuit priest friend of mine has a challenging saying: “You are as Christian as how you treat the most irritated people you know.” It is easy for us to love those with whom we are comfortable, those who are nice to us, and those whom we deem good. We seldom consider loving those who irritate us; at best, we tolerate or endure them. This betrays our misconception that love is primarily a feeling. However, love is a choice. A choice: a reaching beyond ourselves to nurture the spiritual growth of ourselves or another.
Consider someone who irritates, annoys, or angers you. Ask yourself, what does this irritation tell me about myself? Could it be that the person is manifesting a defect in yourself or pointing out something in your life you are refusing to see, or not living up to the expectation that have been programmed into you by your upbringing? It is difficult for us to love the person because of the inner agitation that arises in us. Loving the person would involve accepting and even embracing parts of ourselves that are “ugly” or “unlovable.” Loving the person would involve a reaching out beyond our negative feelings. Yet, such reaching out expands our hearts and makes us more receptive to the One who is Love.
“Lord, help me to reach beyond myself and accept irritable people or parts of myself today.”