Learning To Love People You Don't Understand

12.08.11

How can you love people when you don't know them? Every once in a while I make a new friend very easily. I'm sure you've experienced the same thing before. You make small talk only a few times and within weeks you have inside jokes and talk to them more than anyone else around. In no time it feels like you've always known each other. I used to think that those friends of mine were special; blessed with a gift of making new friends fast all the time. That is a possibility, but I realized that it is much more likely that I was simply lucky to find someone whose personality is very similar to my own. Their motivations, sense of humor and opinions are all the same as mine, so becoming friends was pretty much inevitable once we met.

Most of the time it's not so easy to make a new friend. You'll start the same as you did with past friends, but for some reason the conversation doesn't flow and it seems every time you talk to that person you're starting all over again. As a kid I used to think it was my fault that I didn't make friends very fast. I became very shy because I thought perhaps what I said to people came off either boring or weird so I didn't say much. I was okay with it most of the time, but a lot of times I really hated those people that never became my friends. I knew there was nothing seriously wrong with me, so I would blame them, labeling them 'jerks' or 'idiots'.

Now that I'm older, it's still very hard not to blame or dislike people when I've interacted with them for months or even years yet never made a connection. Always being the one no one knows can be really frustrating. You know you're doing everything that has helped you make friendships in the past, yet it's getting you nowhere. I'll see the same people over and over yet friendships do not form after multiple conversations. My logical side knows better of course. Clearly our personalities are not alike, we don't have similar interests, or perhaps we just don't see each other enough to remember the last conversation. The most probable cause is that we're both just plain different, so understanding each other can take a lot of work.

Recently I've started working on learning how to genuinely "love my neighbor'. There are certain places I go where everyone knows me and I have a blast just hanging out and talking for hours, but there are other places that are quite the opposite. There are places I've gone for many years and never made a single friend. I dread going to those places. How do I learn to love people who I don't know and don't understand? There will be a chat here and there but nothing seems to stick, so no connections are made. Loving people I don't know as much as those I do know is very difficult.

I'd like to learn to genuinely love people who are not my friends, people who I see all the time but never make a connection with. Calling someone an idiot because I don't understand them is not going to help, instead it plants a seed for hate and anger rather than love and acceptance. I suppose the real trick is learning to be completely unselfish; showing unconditional love, expecting nothing in return.

I have a long way to go if I really want to learn to love everyone. There are still a lot of people who seem like pure idiots to me. Learning to love people you don't understand is a lifetime pursuit, but I believe it is truly worth the effort. Thinking about how much you dislike someone can be exhausting and ruins the chances for a potential friendship. I look forward to a time when I can easily accept and love everyone I meet, even if I don't understand them. You shouldn't have to understand someone to love them.

Article written by Shelly Allen
Photos by Shelly Allen Photography

TAGS: anger, blame, Christ, church, confusing, conversations, day, dislike, don't, easy, emotions, friendly, friends, friendship, gift, hard, hate, hathaway, how, humor, idiots, jerks, Jesus, know, Latter, lds, like, logical, love, lucky, make, making, meet, neighbor, new, opinions, personality, phsychology, Saints, shelly, shy, small, social, special, talk, thinkbits, thy, understand, work, wrong

Back to top