Loving Difficult People

I came across this on my facebook feed this morning . . .

But this is the easy part–being nice to those who are first nice to us. The real issue is how to treat those who are not first nice to us–those who are abrasive or unkind or difficult or unappealing…. If we are truly on a spiritual path–the path of Love–then the question for us is how are we to treat those who are difficult to deal with or who are unkind to us? . . .


About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
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14 Responses to Loving Difficult People

  1. Julie says:

    Respectfully and then run! 🙂

  2. Love them anyway, while not putting yourself in danger. I think of it like this: I can love someone, just because they’re human, they have a beating heart. But, I won’t put myself in harm’s way in the process. You just, love them anyway. If Mother Theresa could do it, we can all do it. That does not mean we allow ourselves to be abused, but we can choose to “overlook” the abuse, to an extent. Someone can speak to me harshly and I will just remind myself they are human and to love them anyway. I may say that I didn’t like what they said, but I try VERY HARD not to speak harshly back. But I am human, too, so sometimes I make mistakes or jump to conclusions. Of course, there are levels of “bad” behavior. I can still love people who have treated me badly, though I won’t necessarily keep them in my life.

    Very thought-provoking post. Thank you, John.

    • John says:

      Thank you for reading and for commenting!

      We live (and love) in a very reactive world–a “do unto others as they have done unto us” world. It’s all very quid pro quo–trading like for like.

      But trading like for like eventually means things almost invariably deteriorate. People get lazy, take each other and their own lives and health for granted, would rather receive than give, or give just enough to receive more. It takes effort to break this cycle–to break the way things naturally tend to go and deteriorate. It takes effort to overcome entropy, inertia.

      And Love–extending ourselves for our own and or another’s growth–is that counter-force. It’s what breaks the cycle of reactivity or even “karma.”

      Love is something proactive and effortful. It creates bridges, attempts to overcome obstacles, gentle walls, sort out misunderstandings. It is what allows us to do unto others what we would want done to us if the situation were reversed–which is something much more proactive, and almost always a great place to begin when trying to decide how to treat another person.

      So this post is asking more about how do we treat people who don’t have anything to offer us in terms of quid pro quo, and in fact, people who may come across to us as a bit jaded, bitter, rough around the edges, critical, tough-minded, i.e., Simon Cowell, but without his power and influence. And not abusive.

      Loving people who want to do us harm or where loving them puts us in harm’s way is some sort of superhero love or God-like love. It’s beyond the scope of what I had in mind here.

      I am more interested in the type of love or self-extension where a conservative can set aside his or her views enough to really listen to a liberal and vice versa, or where a person can set aside his or her ego and emotions (preferences and tolerances; likes and dislikes) and see a situation from a larger and more objective perspective.

      Okay, this is getting long. Thank you for reading and commenting, Z&TAOBPM.

      Kindest regards,


      • I think I may have misunderstood you then. You’re welcome for commenting. To me loving/hearing someone who is different is not very difficult. So if you meant hearing out a conservative or liberal I don’t see that as difficult at all, and may have so misinterpreted your post. I took it to mean loving truly difficult/disordered/abusive people. 🙂

        Thanks for replying.

        • John says:

          We definitely may have been talking about two different difficulties. Glad we could clear it up. It’s amazing how difficult it is, though, for some people to engage in an conversation with someone whose point of view is markedly different than their own. But that’s a big part of trying to be a loving person–it means trying to be a reasonable person, trying to seek first to understand. When and where two people can do this, there is some analogue of Love present. When and where two people (or one of the two people) can’t/won’t (it’s really won’t) do this, there is a lack of love.

          I was using the conservative/liberal dichotomy as an example. Real relationships demand real honest conversations. Now honest conversations can be difficult if one or both of the parties involved tends to lie easily. Honest conversations can also be difficult if one or both of the parties involved is inconsistent–i.e. changes his or her mind frequently, is moody, et cetera–because then what the person is being honest about will change so frequently. So the most fruitful discussions will be about principles or point of view and ideals, not necessarily about the feelings of the moment (which by their very nature tend to be very changeable). Having principles and being able to discuss them depends in large part on being self-aware and leading some semblance of an “examined” life. Many people seem to not be interested in leading an examined and self-aware life, which in part explains why there is so little real Love in the world, and why so many discussions are not about what’s right but who’s right.

          Thanks again for reading and commenting 🙂

          Warmest regards,


          • Yes, I agree, I know because it used to be not just hard for me, but impossible. 🙂

            I could not agree with you more. It is the minority that appears mindful and self-examined, I would answer in a poll, yes, yes, I would.

            HA, yes, who’s right…and that will get us every time. Every one has points!

            You’re welcome. Love, light and peace to you. Thanks for your kind reply.

  3. Lilly Sue says:

    This is definitely a difficult thing…acts of kindness and love when there is nothing in return.

    • John says:

      Agreed, Lilly Sue. (And thank you for reading and for commenting! 🙂

      But why is it so difficult? Is it because of thousands and thousands of years of natural selection and evolution has left us all as the cream of the crop of self-serving “what’s in it for me” creatures? And/or is it difficult just because it’s something that is so foreign to us right now, but with exposure and practice/repetition, it is something that would become more familiar and natural to us–and thereby easier and much less difficult–and so in time we could all awaken our inner-Dalai Lama / Buddha and go around being much more pleasant and understanding and warm and kind to each other?

      My suspicion is that both are true, though I am more drawn to the latter explanation–it’s difficult becuase we all have invested so much time in energy in living in a quid-pro-quo what’s in it for me way, and our being nice proactively (or when there’s no immediate payoff) muscles are underdeveloped and weak, and so it’s haaaarrd to act in this way consistently. But, just like working out physically, much of the pain we feel would be because we’re basially “weak”–the pain we’re feeling would be “weakness leaving the body” as the saying goes, or in this case, the psyche.

      Thanks for reading, Lilly Sue, and for commenting!

      Kindest regards,


  4. Cat Forsley says:

    JOHN ………

    • John says:

      Thanks for commenting, Cat! 🙂 And there is definitely much truth to that–that often it is better to err on the side of kindness and compassion, even if it may be a bit indulgent, because we usually do not know what another person is really going throw or wrestling with.

      That’s the question we’re each faced with almost daily–perhaps several times daily–how do we deal with someone who hasn’t been very nice (not abusive, just not nice or pleasant)at first to us? Do we give it right back to them? (and in spades??) Or do we bite down for a bit on that reactions, try to ask a few questions, listen a bit, and see if we can get a sense of what might be going on beneath the surface? Or if we don’t have the time for that, do we try to respond with kindness and not take the other person’s actions too personally?

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