I once met a woman who had recently married a guy with two teenage sons. To say she did not like the older son would be an understatement. Her arm hairs bristled when he walked into the room.
“How do you do it?” she asked me because I had a teenage stepson of my own.
“I take the spiritual approach,” I said.
“Nope,” she replied. “I can’t do that.” She then proceeded to ramble on about all her stepson’s faults, his annoying behaviors and how she didn’t care if she never got along with him.
She was justifying her resentments. And self-justification keeps us stuck in the problem. I believe that if we take the spiritual approach and look for positive lessons to cull out of any trying situation, we move from the problem into the solution.
Sure, maybe her stepson was a jerk. But we can learn something from anyone. Maybe she’ll never love him but she could have found ways to get along with him. She could look at her own attitudes that might need changing. She could find ways to reach out to a kid who was obviously in his own pain. It might mean only making the conscious decision not to hurt him. Being courteous. Finding some common interest–or developing one.
There are some people we might never love—or even like. (And we don’t always like the people we’re “supposed” to love.) That’s OK, too. As my friend, Jane, always says, “You can be tolerant of everyone—even if you don’t want to take them out to lunch.”
We can use every person in our life as a path to help us grow and change along spiritual lines. But that means being willing to look into that dreaded two syllable instrument: the mirror. We have to be willing to put aside self-justification (“I said that only because she said that”), look at ourselves honestly and be open to change.
I bet if that woman was willing, she could have found ways to change her own behavior to improve her relationship with her stepson. Even if he was an ogre. And just because you’re around an ogre doesn’t mean you have to act like an ogress.
Tool For Tuesday: Take the Spiritual Approach. Move from the Problem to the Solution.