Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Negative Impressions of Others
It is unavoidable to have negative impressions about persons with whom we deal. Yet, it is very practical and realistic to remember, when sorting out our negative impressions, the mercy recommended by the Gospel. Often, we wonder why some people do not smile at all or very rarely. We wonder by some people seem avoidant or fearful or unnecessarily nervous about interacting with others. Behind all of that, there may be some cross, some burden, some fear that they deal with on a regular basis, something very real and maybe very painful to them about which we have absolutely no clue (and often it is appropriate that we should have no clue about such matters because of their very personal or private nature). Such things may involve some chronic illness affecting them or someone close to them, some distant or recent bad experiences, even instances of past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. In certain cases it is very fitting to endure what may seem to be socially odd reactions by being patient and by giving the benefit of the doubt. I say "certain cases" because I am not recommending blanket endurance of actively abusive behavior. I am thinking of learning to endure those whose behavior may be socially unusual but not abusive, materially disruptive, aggressive, or harmful. Many like to repeat the famous saying of St. John of the Cross, which seems especially apt for such ambiguous situations: "where there is no love, put love and you will find love"--even if it may take a long time to find it. I have seen some cases where eventually the love does emerge after lengthy interactions over a significant period of time, as fears are slowly overcome. As St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:7, agape bears and endures all things and so wins in the end.