Image provided by Kevin J. Banet -Driving of the merchants from the temple by Scarsellino- Wikimedia
Is disliking someone unavoidable, or do we just learn to love in spite of it?
This week’s chat room discussion centers the age-old issue of loving people in spite of their actions; or as it is commonly put: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Traverse this difficult topic along with the chatters, and navigate your way towards a better way to respond to this issue in your own life.
If you like this chat, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us! We read a passage of St. Francis de Sales and gather at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday online. Great insights and sharing!
Sister Susan Marie: Welcome, everyone. Blessed Feast Day today!
Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
Sister Susan Marie: The first question certainly applies to people living in community as well as to those in the workforce!
Sister Susan Marie: Question 1: What is the distinction between having a dislike for a person and dislike for their actions? How might our attitude toward them manifest differently in each case?
Caroline: Oh yes, I’ve experienced both for sure!
Caroline: For me, I can take a very strong dislike to actions and must remind myself sometimes that people are not their actions.
Cindy: It also makes a big difference as to whether the disliked actions are personal or not.
Sister Susan Marie: It is difficult to separate because actions can stem from the soul.
Caroline: Yes, in the case I am thinking of, I most definitely do not know her soul, just her actions.
Sister Susan Marie: St Francis de Sales always gives the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.
Cindy: I work in the courts, so I see a lot of actions I do not like, but this is easier to take a “professional” attitude on, but when an offense is actually perceived against myself, it is harder to separate the feeling from the response.
Sister Susan Marie: But it is hard when certain actions are repeated.
Caroline: That makes it worse, when it’s personal. This particular person knows what I dislike and does it anyway.
Cindy: Caroline, do you believe the action is done either with disregard for you or intentionally against you, or might their need to take this action simply be stronger than their desire to spare you from it?
Caroline: I’d say it’s 50/50. Partly habit on her part. But I’ve heard her say, oh sure go with Caroline, but just don’t say anything bad about anyone!
Love Above All Things
Sister Susan Marie: Question 2: Is disliking someone unavoidable, or do we just learn to love in spite of it?
Sister Susan Marie: I think it is natural to have dislikes but supernatural to learn to love those we dislike.
Caroline: Sorry, but this topic is so appropriate for me right now. I need to learn those ways and not just sit here complaining.
Cindy: Sometimes modelling will help in that circumstance – when she says something negative, don’t correct or respond, simply balance it with something positive. She will either stop in order to get you to stop, or the positive ideas will start following the negative in her own mind so that she simply starts curbing herself.
Caroline: I’ve tried that, and I think she kind of gets it. But I’m more likely to not respond by changing the conversation altogether.
Caroline: The game now is for her to catch me doing or saying something wrong so she can make a huge deal out of it.
Cindy: I believe it may be impossible to completely prevent ever disliking someone, but if we don’t stop at that point – if we keep looking with charity, we can usually find some point of good or at least hope that we can hold onto to keep ourselves at least civil until the charity can take hold.
Sister Susan Marie: I think that is a Salesian approach - it is to keep looking for the positive.
Sister Susan Marie: Not easy though.
Caroline: No, but it is the right way.
Sister Susan Marie: At work the approach might be a bit different than in a religious setting, but the problem is probably the same.
Cindy: Caroline, it is difficult when people are actively seeking to trip you up, but don’t give up and don’t forget the value of an apology if you do slip up – we know we’re not perfect, but to acknowledge it openly makes a big impact as well.
Caroline: Yes, in the Rule I am learning, we do not talk about others in the community with whom we disagree, but we go to them and reconcile.
Caroline: Harder in the workplace not to give in to that temptation!
Love is a Verb
Sister Susan Marie: Question 3: How exactly can we exercise acts of love for someone with whom we have a displeasure?
Caroline: One way I have fun with is to find out what that person likes and then give it to them. Usually anonymously.
Cindy: I recently recommended to someone that they should still be willing to help if needed, but that help may be more like throwing a rope to a panicked drowning victim, rather than jumping into the water to try to hold their hand.
Sister Susan Marie: Sometimes just not taking a judgmental attitude, suspending it for a while and trying to perceive another and more wholesome character trait.
Caroline: That is definitely best. And pray, and offer up for them.
Sister Susan Marie: We all struggle with this issue!
Cindy: It is also helpful to try to understand the motives for an action – most people who are acting negatively are either striking out in anger or fear, or they have simply learned inappropriate patterns. Gaining an understanding can at least boost the empathy which then gives more sincerity in the efforts to help or respond charitably.
Caroline: It is part of being human, I think. If I can forgive myself for the feeling (and repent!) I can be less judgmental.
Cindy: And if we may never know the cause for someone’s negative behaviors, accepting that there likely is a cause, then gives us something to offer on their behalf to God.
Caroline: Yes, and not try to “fix it.”
Sister Susan Marie: What does one offer? Not sure what you mean.
Cindy: Prayers on their behalf, for peace or healing or …
Caroline: Oh, I offer up my Eucharist when I receive, or I say a Rosary or mercy prayer because I know God wants to work all this for our good and for salvation
Cindy: I find if I can pray to God for their good, it is very hard not to feel His love entering the situation.
Sister Susan Marie: Yes, ongoing prayer, thank you.
Go in Peace
Sister Susan Marie: Question 4: Saint Francis ensures us we do not need to go to confession when we fail to be totally cheerful with someone. How can this help in leading someone away from scrupulosity?
Cindy: Remembering that the emotion or feeling is not a sin as there was no choice, but it is our reaction to that which needs to be considered.
Cindy: But I guess if our “go to” emotion is critical, we may need to take some responsibility in adjusting the framework that we are viewing others through.
Caroline: You are right, Cindy.
Sister Susan Marie: I think sometimes if one lives in a nearly perpetual annoying circumstance a person prone to scrupulosity can move that way.
Caroline: It also takes our focus off ourselves to not be constantly judging ourselves and holding others to our standards.
For Those Below
Sister Susan Marie: Question 5: How should you treat a person who is not your superior, and yet always seems to be critical about you?
Cindy: Haha, see above…
Cindy: But sometimes putting some distance may be helpful if that is an option.
Caroline: I’ve been told in the workplace to say thanks for the input, I’ll consider it. That doesn’t sound quite right in a monastic setting.
Cindy: As Caroline said, though, maybe not appropriate in community.
Cindy: …maybe confusing – I meant that my last option might also not be appropriate in community.
Caroline: I think it’s about boundaries. In the workplace people tend to cross that line with greater freedom and it is more necessary to take a stand for integrity’s sake.
Sister Susan Marie: And in community the rules include apologies and sometimes penances which you will not find in the workplace.
Cindy: I appreciate St Francis de Sales advice that for the sake of integrity, we should correct a wrong accusation, but once the correction has been made, we are then not to continue arguing it. This is a recent distinction for me so not a lot of experience with that balance yet…
Caroline: There is much wisdom there. If the person corrects their mistaken view, we should drop it. But what happens if they don’t?
Sister Susan Marie: Yes, and to move on if possible is a way of trying to strike that balance.
Sister Susan Marie: Sometimes one has to part from the scene in a gentle way, if possible.
Cindy: If they don’t change their stance, then this is an inner mortification that can be offered just as Jesus was falsely accused, but the correction is made by you so that others who may be aware of the accusation may be given the information needed to form their own opinions.
Caroline: I tried that the other day in the office. She went right to the boss and had a long list of complaints and names to call me.
Sister Susan Marie: This Friday is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May His Love fill you. Prayers for you and God bless!
If you liked this chat, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters.