In my mind, this is on the subject of "how to get along with difficult people." And this is a post where there is much that you can see is wrong with my thoughts: some of those thoughts are less than Christian. (After all, no doubt I'm on somebody's list of "difficult people" myself. I could easily see "getting along with difficult people" as a matter of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you.") So you can see that I'm not writing about where I should be in the struggle but about where I am. I offer up these thoughts of a small step in the right direction, in the hopes that it benefits someone else too.
I've found an approach that's been helpful to me, in treating people better, especially people that I really, truly don't enjoy being around. It came up when I was (once again) dreading having to to deal with a certain person that I find difficult to respect. My frustration with this person has been climbing for some time.
And this last week, on a night when I was going to be in a group that invariably includes him, I finally wondered, "What if I loved him?" Like an uncle or a father or a cousin or whatever the case may be, what if I loved him? And it was noticeably easier that night to be not merely civil but even kind, when I kept that thought in my mind. Since then I've had the occasion to try it on other people who sometimes test my patience: before opening my mouth, or interacting in any way, I simply think, "What if I loved him (her)?"
And it's no help towards loving them, if instead I feel guilty that I don't love them the way I should. But it has helped to ask myself "What if I did?" It has quickly become something of a background thought that keeps running in a corner of my mind. The way some people ask, "What would Jesus do?" before their actions, I find myself using that line to prepare my heart and mind -- clean it, maybe? -- before I speak to someone. "What if I loved them?"