Lately I’ve seen a lot of this meme online expressing the idea of ridding your life of difficult people. You’ve seen it, not giving energy to people that drain your own energy, only surrounding yourself with happy, wonderful people or, if we’re honest, people who are exactly like us. Then to top it all off, this weekend I heard a story about a widget-creator millionaire who got himself a private jet because of his personal mission to “rid my life of anyone who bums me out.” Wow, that guy bums me out.
We all know that this would be pretty hard to achieve even if we wanted to do it, because we all have family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. that we don’t get to choose. But beyond that, there is a problem with this thought. It’s an individualistic, isolationist, and self-centric idea, and it's anti-community. If you’re okay with that, then you can probably stop reading. But I’m not, and I know a lot of you aren’t either. Here’s what I think. The essence of life is relationships! We’re all broken and messy people, so do the math. If we all avoided and kept away people who bum us out, then won’t there be a lot of us who are alone, who feel unloved, unworthy? We know that this is already true, because we already do this. I do it. But I shouldn’t.
Personally, I’m coming at this from a Jesus-perspective. He didn’t say, “Come to me all you who DON'T bum me out.” He said, “Come to me all you who TOTALLY bum me out!” (Matthew 11:28) He also said, “love your neighbor as yourself,” which you may also recognize as the Golden Rule, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Think about who these people might be in your life: neighbors, boss, co-workers, relatives, the homeless, the neighborhood kids, the other moms and dads at the playground, the check-out girl or barista you see every day, refugees, illegal immigrants, the poor, people who are sick, grieving, lonely, prisoners, the elderly, people with disabilities.
It can be overwhelming, but we have to stop letting that stop us. We should just start somewhere, reach out to someone and see what happens. We should stop placing judgments, be kind, extend love, be peacemakers, and live life WITH people. That doesn’t mean that all boundaries go out the window, but it does mean we stop using boundaries as a full-blown wall to keep people away so they don’t bum us out.
I know this will not always be easy, but I know it will be better. I've seen it, and it's beautiful. Just imagine the beauty that can be if everyone is more kind, more generous, more willing to live life WITH each other.
Photo from Kinfolk