The difficult people
“ Someone who has a way of getting under our skin in some significant way probably belongs there.” Br. Curtis Almquist, Society of Saint John the Evangelist, “Brother Give Us a word,” November 17, 2018, ssje.org.
This time of the year we find ourselves around some difficult people we have been able to avoid all year, but not during the holidays.
We learn about Christ by seeing Christ in other people. Sometimes seeing the love of God in our neighbor is easy, sometimes hard. We hope to learn the most about God by sticking with those whose light of Christ shines so easily. Celtic spirituality teaches us that at the core of all of us is goodness. We do meet people, however, whose presence of light and goodness seems impossible to see.
My experience is that God uses every part of each of us to connect and reconnect us back to God. This is true of the difficult parts of ourselves and our neighbors as well. God teaches us where we need help in our lives by being with people who encourage and love us, but we are also taught by being with those who don’t seem to have any concept of love. These are warning signs for us as we observe how empty that life is even if the person seems to be the wealthiest person we know.
We also are to pay close attention to character traits that we are repelled by in others. I think this is what Brother Almquist is trying to tell us. God teaches us so much about ourselves and what is blocking us from a relationship with God in those who repel us as much as we learn from those to whom we are attracted. What greatly irritates us in another often is a character defect we also may have well hidden in ourselves.
Brother Almquist asks us to try not to judge or condemn someone who significantly bothers us. Instead we are to consider this as an invitation to practice mercy and use this situation instead as a mirror into ourselves. We are called to see if these same character defects or sins are also carefully concealed in ourselves just under our skin and blocking us as well from the relationship to a God who loves all of us and constantly calls us to connection and relationship.