I have what some may call an abrasive personality. I’m a loud talker, a loud laugher and someone who finds it near impossible to hide my feelings even if I don’t say a word. A sneer, frown, grin, a raised eyebrow or a loud guffaw all find ways to escape my face before I have time to think better of it. These behaviors are not always the best way to make friends or influence people. And there once was a time that I didn’t really care.
My belief was that if I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings, then any hurt feelings were not my fault. I’ve since learned this is an unacceptable way to function as a human being.
Obviously, we all curate our circles of friends who share our interests, sense of humor and values. But what about those outside those circles? What obligation do we have beyond common courtesy? (And yes, I’ve always been capable of common courtesy despite my abrasiveness.)
The greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. But we are also called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Let’s just roll with the notion that our neighbor is every individual we encounter. But what of love? What does it mean to love others? To love all?
Some things I’ve learned about loving others:
- Be quiet sometimes and let other people talk – even people you disagree with or think are stupid.
- Try not to think all people are stupid.
- When you do talk, be helpful, not condescending or rude (unless you are already friends and you’re certain your friends think sarcasm is funny).
- Use your turn signals.
- Don’t measure others by your own yardstick. So you’re amazing. But you probably got that way because somebody in your life gave you a hand up or some good advice. Pay it forward and help somebody else inch toward becoming as amazing as you.
- Acknowledge life events like birthdays, promotions, births and deaths. A card, a gift, a simple note, or your presence at a party or a funeral tell people you care about them and what’s happening in their lives.
- Say please and thank you.
- Make an effort not to hurt people’s feelings even if their feelings are too easily hurt and you’d rather just roll your eyes. And when you do hurt someone’s feelings, intentionally or unintentionally, because you’re insensitive or clumsy or clueless or just a loudmouth cranky-pants like me, say you’re sorry.
Lastly, here’s a tip I learned from a friend: When dealing with someone you don’t much enjoy, think to yourself, “This person is a miracle, a marvel and a wonder. God loves them and so should I.”
Somehow, reminding myself that all people matter to God helps me behave more like they also matter to me. And hopefully, better behavior will blossom into better feelings and make me less likely to roll my eyes when you talk.