What can you do when you have to spend time with people you don't enjoy? I found that there is something better than just adopting a "grin and bear it" approach, enduring the encounter.
My family was expecting a relative to come stay for a week recently. I wasn't looking forward to opening our home to this guest. I did not approve of the way he conducted his personal and business relationships. In my heart I felt it was right to extend hospitality and courtesy to him, but I didn't think I could get my personal opinions of him out of the way enough to do so.
One evening a week before his arrival, I found myself rehearsing in my mind all the things I didn't like about this man and regretting how much easier it would be to have guests I liked, with whom I had more in common. I found myself trying to think of ways I could endure this visit with as little inconvenience to myself as possible.
As I continued along in this self-righteous line of reasoning, suddenly these words popped into my head: "If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?" (Matthew 5:46). I recognized this as a passage from Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (see chap. 5-7), a lesson in life he gave to his disciples. "Well, that's true," I thought. "If I only treat selected friends and family members with respect and love, I'm not doing anything so special at all. But because I am a follower of Jesus, I'm someone who is trying to be more gracious, more loving, and less self-centered every day. And I need to do better than just love people I choose to love."
I thought about Jesus' understanding that God was his Father, and how this understanding enabled him to do more than merely act on personal likes and dislikes. God, the one and only creator, made us all in His likeness. Confirming this, Jesus didn't scorn or shun people who were dishonest, immoral, leprous, dying. He didn't indicate that anyone was less than what God, the all-good and loving Father, had made him or her to be-perfect. Jesus' actions reflected love for all, even to the point that he could forgive the people who were crucifying him.
I decided to use the remaining days before our relative arrived to get a better view of him than I currently had, an understanding that was more in line with how God created him. Something written by Mary Baker Eddy, who found in the teachings of Jesus the healing truth she named Christian Science, was extremely helpful to me: ". . . The human concept is always imperfect; relinquish your human concept of me, or of any one, and find the divine, and you have gained the right one-and never until then" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 353).
Anytime I caught myself thinking of our guest as a dishonest businessman, an irresponsible father, or an immoral adult, I asked myself: "Is that how God made him? Is that what Jesus would have seen in him?" Such questions warmed my attitude when I answered honestly in the negative. This made it easier for me to look forward to being kind to our relative.
Much to my surprise, it wasn't very difficult at all to be nice to him. He was considerate, full of compliments, and appreciative. He commented several times on what an enjoyable stay he was having. I, too, was enjoying getting to know more of him than what my former opinions would have allowed. I was grateful that I could see in our guest good qualities such as humor and concern for his family, in addition to other qualities that showed something of his true nature, his spiritual likeness to God, his creator. I no longer felt the need to judge him or to be disturbed by his personal life. Instead, I was humbled by an assurance I felt that God was communicating to both of us the ideas we needed so that we could bless each other.
Personal judgments can't block your ability to see good in others. When we remember that one God, the only creator, makes us as perfect as He is, we are free to find and appreciate that good.