It is strange to consider that our neighbour is our family member, our friend, our colleague, our fellow student, the person we meet on a daily basis. This is strange, for we do not consider our actions with those closest to us, rather, most of us by default look at what we say and do with those we meet in our daily lives.
How many times have we met and spoken with a person whom others think to be difficult, but we did not see them in the same light? We were able to see and appreciate the person for who s/he is, and what s/he contributes to the world, no matter how much we may or may not agree with his/her point of view.
How many times have we helped out a colleague or classmate whom others have turned away, because we understand that all the person need/ed is a way, a helping hand to see the solution to a problem.
It would seem that we are able to help a lot of people that we meet in our lives, in one way or another. It would also seem interesting, that we have family members and friends that we have cut from our lives, because we are unable to reach a happy median; a way of meeting and leaving in peace. It is interesting, that we are able to offer things to strangers, that we are unable to offer to our own family members and friends. Why is this?
I believe that the reason is because of what we know of the individual. We are unable to remove ourselves from situations, because we are invested in them, in one way or another. If all we know of a person is the person’s ability to let us down, or not carry through on things promised, then it is easy to assume that that person will always let us down, in one fashion or another.
If we expect a family member or friend to always make excuses and not do what s/he needs to do to progress in his/her life, we always expect nothing less. How is it though, that we are more merciful of strangers, more willing to give someone that we do not know a chance, a try or our effort. Are we loving our neighbour in this instance?
Reasons will always be valid for as long as we have them, and this can be said of family members and friends that are not in our active lives. We have reasons for not speaking with them, visiting them, or wishing them well. It is true, and sad, that our expectations of each other are built upon our experiences, and what we know of the other individual.
What is sad about this, is that for as long as we look at the people in our lives through the same eyes, we will always see them as we wish to, and not as they are. It is also true, that we will see strangers as they would like to appear, until a time when what they show us and what we know of them is either congruent, or not true.
Whereas we are going to give multiple opportunities to colleagues despite our hesitation and lamentations, we do not do the same with our loved ones. Our expectations will always trump what we give to those we love. When we expect something of someone, it does not matter what that individual does, we will always filter their actions based on our expectations of them.
It is more difficult to be understanding of a loved one than it is of a stranger. This is only because of the expectations that we have of the said individual. We will always expect things of our children, siblings, relatives and friends. We are not able to not expect anything, to live and learn them as they are. We can only do this with strangers, for we do not have a point of reference.
It is not impossible however, to unlearn our behaviours and attempt to restructure our relationships, if we truly value the role that the individual plays in our life. We are able to set aside our personal feelings for the overall good in maintaining peace in the relationship, if we are open to this. The difficulty, or downside to this, however we may choose to see it, is in the amount of pain that would be involved, in allowing the individual to be him/herself, as s/he really is, against our personal belief system and experience.
This would mean allowing the other’s point of view to be expressed in a non-judgemental environment. This would mean allowing the other to live his/her life according to his/her way. This would mean learning the individual for who s/he is as opposed to who we would like him/her to be. This would mean accepting our own limited view point and measurement standards of those we love.
We are not able to love strangers if we are not able to love those placed in our lives. We only fool ourselves, when we give to others, and not those who belong to us. We are not able to compensate in a real sense, because all we are doing, is giving to those “outside the gate” what belongs to those “inside the house”.
Not all family members and friends will get along. Life would not be real if people got along all the time. We are all different, and so are our lives. What is true however, are the people in our lives. Whereas we do not choose the people in our lives, but choose their roles in our lives, we can, if we want to, take up the cross of working through difficult relationships, for the value that this will impart.
We may not be able to physically stand our family members and friends over long periods of time. Sometimes, we may not be able to stand them at all. We are however always in a position to try. We may not work out our problems overnight, and sometimes, it takes a lifetime to get it right, the viewing each individual through his/her eyes, as opposed to our jaded ones.
We can however, always try. We can take our breaks, make our peace, try again and fight each other through the hardship until we get to the finish line. As with all matters in life, we are not able to say we tried once we’ve been hurt once or twice, but for a lifetime. Then we can say that we tried. This does mean setting our pride aside, and working toward a favorable outcome.
We are instructed to love our neighbour as ourselves. We are quick to write checks to help those in other countries, before we open our wallets to help those in our families. We are quick to provide guidance and a helping hand to those who walk through our office doors, and quick to judge our faltering family members and friends. We are kind when speaking to strangers we believe are setting themselves up for failure, and harshly impart our “wisdom” to those we love. We will always judge those we know more harshly, than those we have just met.
It is easy to be grateful for, and love those in our family, and our friends, when things are working out. What do we choose to do, when things fall apart? It is here that the challenge lies. Love your neighbour, as you love yourself. Love the person placed in your life, with all his/her flaws and waywardness, as though s/he was the greatest thing to have happened to you, and you will have mastered the kindest act and gift of them all; Love.