“Whatever you want people to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” Matthew 7:12.
This is another form of the ancient law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Leviticus 19:18
We know that we should love one another, but it is not easy to love on command. There are all kinds of barriers that get in the way. The people we are supposed to love can be decidedly unlovable at times. They have all sorts of problems and character defects. They behave in ways that make it very hard for us to love them.
When we look at our neighbor, what do we notice? We see a basement full of horrible beasts. And we think: “If it wasn’t for those beasts I could love that person.” It is hard to ignore errors. We do not deal well with imperfections. We tend to focus on the flaws and shortcomings of other people.
What part of us is seeing the faults in others? Is it our higher self? Isn’t it more likely to be our “beasts” that look at “those beasts” and think how terrible “those beasts” are.
If a person gets into the higher level of being, where the divine love flows through to others, there can be a wonderful feeling of acceptance and love. We do not need to focus on people’s errors, perversions or mistakes. It is only when we are acting out of the lower self that we are harshly critical and intolerant.
It is the nature of the lower self to find fault although the faults in another may be nothing compared to the faults inside us. Sometimes we suppose that other people look at us benignly and think we are wonderful. They have no difficulty loving us. We are the ones who have a problem loving them. “Why are they making it so hard to for me to love them?”
How can we change this pattern? How can we break away from this illusion? One way is to put ourselves into the other person’s position. If you could get inside another person, and live their life even for a short time, wouldn’t you have an entirely new way of interpreting their behavior? Then you would be seeing them from the position of their real life, instead of what you imagine you would do in their situation. Since we do not live inside other people, our judgments are distorted and false.
To put ourselves in the other person’s position, we have to rise to a higher level in ourselves. From that level we can see the other person with greater sympathy.
We have this mistaken idea about people that if they were perfect we would love them. This comes out when we criticize others as if to say: “I couldn’t possibly like them because they have so many faults.” That, of course, is a lie. How would you feel toward someone you thought was perfect? Wouldn’t you be terribly intimidated by them? Wouldn’t you find that you couldn’t stand them?
We imagine that other people’s imperfections make it hard for us to love them, but have you ever had the experience of hearing a person telling in an honest and straightforward way the realities of his or her life? Have you ever listened to the point where you started to feel their joy and their pain as if it were your own? If so, didn’t you find your love toward them increasing? I have been in that situation many times, and in every case I felt more love for the people who were sharing with me. Other people do not have to be perfect to be lovable.
In our normal life, we hardly ever see people on a deep level. When they share themselves, with all the realities of their imperfections and problems, they might expect to be rejected. Instead, they receive an outpouring of love. In this situation, people rise above any petty criticisms and get more to the essence of the person. They see them from the point of view of their higher self, not of their basements. They don’t notice the cracks on the wall, the tottering chimney, or their unruly beasts. They look past all their flaws, and start to tune in to their better qualities. When this happens, they feel love for the people in whom they could previously only notice flaws..
Think of people you do not like in your life. How do you remember that you do not like them? Doesn’t this take effort? You have to keep reminding yourself: “I don’t like this person”. To do this you have to recall why it is that you don’t like them. Your mind will have to dig up some negative event in the past if you want to keep an attitude of dislike.
Why not put a similar effort into remembering that you love them? Why not put effort and attention into lowering the barriers, and really coming to see the other person in a more understanding way?
The Golden Rule is NOT: “Do unto others as others do to you” but: “Do unto others as you would wish others to do unto you”. And wouldn’t you like other people to regard you with compassion for your problems and blemishes?
Think of someone that you have difficulty getting along with. The difficulty could be large or small.
Now put yourself in that person’s shoes. Take on that person’s life for a few moments. If you like, fill out the form at the end of this section. Write on the form as if you were that person. Imagining that you are the person, write some biographical details about the person and some facts of their life: Their age; What are they doing right now. What have they experienced in the past? What are they dealing with now? This can be fairly brief. It is only for your own information–no one else is going to see your writing. It is just a way for you to get the feeling of that other person’s life.
Then write about some challenges that you–as that person–are up against. In other words you might write: “I am Freda. I was born in 1946. I have been married and divorced. I have been alienated from my children. I have had a difficult time making ends meet. My job is not very interesting and does not pay well.”
It might help to assume the other person’s typical body position. Maybe the person you are thinking of always sits bent over with eyes downcast. Then you could sit that way, just to help you get inside the person, and begin to feel their life as if it were your own.
Once you have completed that task, notice if you have a different sense of the other person and your relationship. When I have done this task, I have found that people whom I thought were giving me problems, were really getting from me many more problems than they were giving me.
The task this week is to use effort and attention to get out of your critical attitude into a more positive one about someone else. You can do this about a single individual, or you could apply it to a variety of people that you are having difficulties with. The task involves two steps:
- Put yourself into the other person’s shoes.
- Instead of dwelling on negative things about the person, make an effort to dwell on something positive about them.