Day 11 – How to love those who are hard to love

Yesterday was all about the benefits of loving our enemies. But it’s a lot easier said that done. Today is all about how we do it. Or at least some thoughts on how we can try.

Martin Luthor King, Jr. gave a sermon called Loving your Enemies at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957. I included a few excerpts from his talk as well.

1) Get to know the person. It’s a lot easier to be hateful to large, abstract people groups, than to real, live individuals we actually know. So often we pick an issue we disagree with and somehow the people who fall into that category – “them” – become an object of our disdain and disapproval. It’s one thing to disagree with an action but don’t turn the individual into an object of hate as well.

Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.

– Martin Luthor King, Jr.

2) Take a walk in their shoes. Once you’ve had a chance to get to know them a bit, try to imagine what their life must be like. They face struggles and hardships like the rest of us. They may put on a tough front, but is that who they really are? Once your empathy kicks in, it will be a lot easier to love them.

3) Take a deep breath and walk away. Sometimes the best thing to do is just take a break. My husband and I learned this in pre-marital counseling. When you’re in the midst of a fight you can keep yelling, screaming and refusing to understand one another or you can walk away (on the condition that you’ll come back later to work things out). Sometimes you reach a point where there is nothing more to say or do and all you need is some time away to process. The same goes when you’re feeling unloving or even utterly disgusted at someone. Walk away, gain perspective and come back fresh.

4) Find something to appreciate in “your enemy”. There has to be some redeeming quality in the person. Find it and remember it always. Once you’ve found one, try to find another. It is hard to hate someone who you actually like in some ways.

A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.

– Martin Luthor King, Jr.

5) Forgive. Is this person your enemy because of something that happened in the past? Forgive them. You’ll experience great freedom when you do.

6) Pray for them. God will change your heart. He will soften it if you allow Him to.

These are by no means profound. This stuff is hard! These are baby steps that might get you thinking about forgiving and learning to love those people who are hard to love.

Any other ideas?

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