Have you ever met someone and immediately disliked them? There was just something about them that rubbed you the wrong way. So for whatever reason, before you even knew anything about them, you disliked them. Has that ever happened to you?
Yeah, me neither.
But I imagine that there are some people in your life that you just don’t get along with. You’re constantly annoyed by them. You’re perpetually arguing with them and thinking unkind thoughts about them. We always assume that the problem lies entirely with that other person. If they were different, we would be nicer to them.
I’d like to present you with an earth shattering possibility. Maybe the problem isn’t them.
Okay, maybe they are a problem. But what if you’re a problem too? What if the real reason you have trouble getting along with people lies within your own heart?
In the New Testament, we find no shortage of situations where people couldn’t get along. In one letter, James (the brother of Jesus) wrote to a community of Christians who were in serious conflict. In fact, their conflict was so severe that it led some scholars to suggest that members of the community were physically violent with each other! Can you imagine a fist fight breaking out in the middle of a church service? Sadly, I can.
While you might not be putting your dukes up anytime soon, James’ words help us understand why we tend to dislike other people and what we can do to improve our relationships.
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1-3, ESV)
While we could spend all day pointing fingers at each other, it would be far better to look at our own hearts to see how we might be contributing to the problem.
Here are four real (and uncomfortable) reasons you dislike certain people.
1. You Always Think of Yourself First.
Too often, we look at life as though it were a zero-sum game. It’s all about winners and losers. In order for someone to win, someone else has to lose. So we need to look out for number one. And we will do whatever it takes to come out on top.
In this mentality, other people become threats. If everyone is vying for the same resources, then everyone is an enemy. We become innately hostile toward other people, because we’re trying to compete with them.
It’s hard to have a relationship with someone whom you’re trying to defeat. When we refuse to empathize with others, we will always see them as a hindrance to our own agenda.
This mentality keeps us from seeing people as beings created in the image of God. We need to learn to celebrate other people. To cheer them on. To remember that we serve a God of abundance, not a God of scarcity.
2. You’re Jealous.
Jealousy is a powerful thing. It distorts our view of other people. We see their success, their resources, their popularity, and any other good thing in their lives through the lens of negativity. We convince ourselves (and anyone else who will listen) that this person only has success in life through some sort of shady means. We question their motives. We nitpick at various details of their life.
But the bottom line is that we want what they have, and we’re frustrated that it seemingly came easier to them than it did to us. And it makes us not like them.
But God never withholds any good gift from us. We do not have, because we do not ask. And when we do ask, we only ask God for what will help us look better to the people around us, what will give us greater security and success in life. We operate from a place of selfishness and jealousy.
3. You’re Prideful.
Most of us would rather die than be wrong. We would rather suffer an untimely demise than have to apologize for something. And we certainly don’t ever want to be second best.
When other people challenge our way of thinking, or they get the success that we wanted, it’s a blow to our pride. When people don’t treat us with the proper respect we think is due to us, it’s our pride that makes us react. Our pride makes us feel the need to protect ourselves.
It’s all too easy to forget that humility is the key to our success.
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ … Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:6, 10, ESV)
It’s easy to take the hit when you have a humble mindset. It’s easier to accept the hurtful comment, the annoyance, or lack of recognition when we realize that, in due time God, will lift us up. If we really believe that, it makes being kind a whole lot easier.
4. You’re Judgmental.
It’s easy to not like people when you pass judgment on them. And we do it all the time. We take a detail about a person’s life and assume that it’s the totalizing characteristic of their life. And on the basis of that singular characteristic, we feel justified in condemning them.
But what gave us such authority to render judgment about another person’s entire life and character?
“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers … There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12, ESV)
We begin to think poorly of someone when we write them off as a lost cause. We think it’s okay to say unkind things to them. And about them. It’s justified because of the great offense they have caused. But most of the time, their only offense is that we find them to be annoying.
It’s a good thing Jesus doesn’t condemn people for the same reasons we do.
We dislike people when we have a small view of God’s grace. While we were enemies, Jesus died for us. This is the grace that we have been given, the grace we have been called to give to other.
We might not ever be best friends with everyone in our lives. But if we’re being honest, most of us need to change our perspective. We need to think less of ourselves and more of others. If we do, we might find that other people aren’t so bad. And we might actually become more likable ourselves.