It’s so easy to be self-consumed in this world of ‘me’ and iThings and instant gratification. It’s so easy to scoff at others’ complaints when yours are clearly much bigger. It’s so easy to be self-consumed and egocentric on social media where likes and shares boost your dopamine levels until you’re comfortably self-confident enough to go back to the real world… for a short time.
What’s hard is realizing that’s not what He wants of you; it’s not a loving way to live. God is love and so He wants us to love others as He loves us. (1 John 4:8-11) He especially wants us to step beyond ourselves and love the least of these. (Matthew 25:40)
We all know that one guy or girl, or a few, who annoy us to no end. It could be their petty ways, going on and on to coworkers about a lamp they own or some plans to get coffee with a neighbor later. Who cares, right? It could be their dramatics over something you’ve already gotten over the moment you heard the news: so-and-so’s doing such-and-such… whatever! It could be their over-interest in others, asking too many (often too personal) questions. “What are you and your husband doing after that?” Perhaps it’s the judgments, like, “I think you should…” or, “That’s men for you! Always…” or, “If I were you…” [Well, you’re not!] … Ahem…
Yes, we know those people. They are the least of these. They are not necessarily meek, poor, unwanted (strangely, they have friends), or in any great need. They are the least of these because they are the least you care about, at least right now. If you can love them, you may feel you can love anyone. The point is that you need to love them. They are God’s children as much as you.
Case study 1: There was a girl in 7th grade who was certainly annoying, but kind and friendly and we were sort-of friends. She was teased sometimes but was fine blowing it off. I joined in once with a clever little song at the cafeteria. She tried to laugh it off. One of our friends gave me a look. I didn’t do it again. I can’t remember if I apologized, but we continued being friends. If she was irritating in some way, I tried to figure out why and solve it mentally instead of teasing or shutting her out. I started to notice things, figure out what triggered what in people. Sometimes people act a certain way (especially in middle school) in order to avoid other discomforts. She was socially awkward and, it turns out, so was I. Who was I to judge? I was probably worse!
Case study 2: I know a person who’s very opinionated. In a conversation among others, I mentioned that I don’t like flat sheets; she was appalled I could even sleep at night without them! There were looks exchanged of, “um, so?” This is the kind of person that I find myself pretending to be busy so I’m not approached for conversation. Someone who thinks her topics are all big deals and doesn’t everyone do things her way? But I wonder if my trivial matters in my life look just as small to God.
Why is it so easy to judge others, of course by our own flawed standards, but we miss our own flaws too often? Or if we don’t miss our own flaws, we might let them drag us down! Neither is good. We need to not judge others, forgive them their flaws, and forgive ourselves for our own. To that guy that annoys you, his problems are his own and to him they’re big. Of course you don’t think so - you’re you! Someone else might be thinking the same of you. Are you hard to love to others? Are you ‘that guy’ (or girl) to anyone else? How small and petty we must look to the Creator of the Universe!
Forgiveness isn’t just for sins. Can we forgive someone their flaws? Forgive the pettiness or the opinions or the annoying idiosyncrasies. God has already loved you past yours, and loved your neighbors past theirs. (Ephesians 4:32) We need to do the same and love beyond what we like. If we can look beyond what annoys us, beyond our own self-centered judgments, we might see as He sees. We might love more like God intended. We might truly love the least of these.