Harmless, Conclusion

When we see faults in others, but they remain invisible to us while they are also present in us, we fit the pattern the Lord warned us against: “Why is it that you behold the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the speck, out of your eye, and cannot behold a beam in your own eye?” NC Matt. 3:41.

Given this problem we all share, there seems one solution that will prevent me from stepping over this particular line: I can stop judging, correcting, and imposing on others.

If I love my neighbor as myself, does that mean I need to like him/her also? I think the answer could be “no.”

Can someone find me very difficult as a personality, and still do me no harm? Even love me? I think the answer is “yes” to both these.

I have a whole lifetime that has been influenced by parents, who were raised by grandparents, and the influence on my parents by my grandparents is undeniable. This is true across generations. There is no end to the familial influences that were present when I was born. Everyone else comes into this world situated with the exact same legacy from their ancestors.

My childhood friends, my school teachers, my disappointments, successes, failures, and losses all accumulate over a lifetime. That is true of everyone else, as well.

There is no telling how many people have done each of us harm. And when someone else reminds us of a prior bully, predator, antagonist or enemy, it is perhaps impossible to disregard that and embrace the new person in a friendly, open way. But can they still be loved by you? Even if they trigger very bad sentiments? Can I just leave them alone, deal candidly and honestly with them, doing them no harm, but still love them as I love myself? Meaning I would share food if they need it, provide a ride if they ask, or do them a kindness if given the opportunity.

Does loving someone as myself require anything more than benign accommodation of their needs? Can I be a good neighbor, and live in peace, with someone who rubs me the wrong way. If you hate the way they talk, and that is because they grew up in an environment where their family, friends, teachers and coaches all conjugated four-letter swear words into nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs, do you need to be repelled by their colorful vocabulary? What if their language is offensive, but they mean no offense? What if, despite their best efforts, they cannot escape from that background because it is ‘baked into the cake’ so to speak?

What if their trauma has so affected them that they are withdrawn, cold and distant? They may have VERY good reasons for behaving as they do, and you may never be able to get them to open up and explain themselves, but should you presume from that conduct that they are just rude? What if instead of rude, they are harboring a deep injury? Can you love them, even if you cannot quite relate to them?

How can a person live in a city of peace, being altogether harmless to their neighbors, if every one of the neighbors is very unlike them? Can we love one another even if we can’t like one another? After all, the command is to love, not to like.

“Judge not unrighteously, that you be not judged, but judge righteous judgment; for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged, and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Id., 40. Can we ever render a justifiable judgment about someone else merely because they are unfriendly, a difficult personality, or prickly? What if those characteristics are how they developed inside the life they lived? What if the life I lived is so very different from yours that I offend you inadvertently, remind you of someone else you disliked, or say something I think is funny and you think is outrageous?

I think I can probably judge someone’s violation of the law of chastity, commitment of murder, theft, abusive violence against children. Open criminality can be condemned in every instance, I think. Some people cannot reside in a city of peace because of their disruption. But if they are not dangerous, can I view them as harmless to me, even if I don’t like them? Can I love them because they are not a threat to me or my family, even if I don’t want to spend 10 minutes with them socially?

My wife is a mental health counselor. She and I spend hours every week talking about these issues as we hike together. Her input has influenced me to see others more practically. She has a podcast named In Sanity: A Piece of Mind that is available on all platforms (e.g., Spotify, Apple Podcast, Castbox, Google Play) and has 151 episodes recorded as of today. The episodes have titles and some of them bear directly on this topic (i.e., Episodes 8, 16, 36, 45-47, 53-55, etc.), if you are interested. She also addressed this in a regional meeting: Love Others as Yourself

Be harmless as a dove. I will try to be the same.