When I Can’t Be Liked By Everyone

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I wish I could be liked by everyone I meet. I know there are some genuine, warm-hearted, sincerely lovable people out there who don’t seem to have an enemy in all the world, but I’m old enough and mature enough now to admit…I’m not one of them.

Sigh.

I remember the first time a best friend got mad at me. Really mad. Mad enough to decide she didn’t like me anymore.

I was in the fourth grade. Still too young to understand all the insecurities I battled being visually and hearing impaired in a hearing-seeing world. Our teacher was marching us single file from the classroom to the playground for Recess. (A school child’s favorite time of the day!) My best friend at the time was  behind me in the line-up where I couldn’t see her face. When we got outside she was angry with me. She said she had called my name several times in the hallway, never mind the rule of no talking in the hall, but I didn’t answer her. When I told her I hadn’t heard her she insisted that I did and she was never my friend again.

I never really enjoyed Recess after that. In fact, I recall being so upset that day I made myself sick. I couldn’t even go to school the next day. Thank goodness graduating to the fifth grade meant we were too old to play on the playground. Drama. Sometimes we girls are all about drama.

I learned early how to build walls around my heart. When someone got too close I backed off, not wanting to put myself at risk of another betrayal. I certainly didn’t want to get too close to someone who might ask me questions about my eye. Heaven forbid. The few brave enough to ask were usually met with a stunned silence. I was sure they could see the rising heat in my face, flushed with humiliation, and hear the pounding of my beating heart, rushed with fear. It was all I could do to keep from turning on my heels and high-tailing it home where I could hide under the watch care of my family who loved me and kept me safe.

I once had a woman in my adult life tell me that when she first met me she had tried to talk to me, either behind me where I couldn’t hear her or beside me where I couldn’t see her, and I never talked back so she thought I was a snob. A snob!! But it made me think…is that what people have thought of me all along? Maybe if I’d learned in my early years to be honest with my friends about my disabilities they would’ve been able to understand me a little better. It’s hard enough being a teenager with up-and-down hormones and emotions out-of-control without adding a prosthetic eye and hearing loss to the package. I guess I just did the best that I could with what I had, but I still made some people not like me.

That sounds like such a silly thing to say, but that’s how little girls talk. How do you make people like you? The truth is, sometimes I feel like I’m still in my little-girl-skin, the tendency to build walls around my heart still surfacing from time-to-time. I want to protect myself from those who don’t seem to like me, but one of the things I’ve learned over the years is this: If I’ve done everything I know to do to treat others with kindness, respect and compassion–something I didn’t always do as a teenager–and I still can’t make a friend out of someone, then maybe the problem isn’t with me.

One of the things that aging and grace have given me is a better understanding of insecurities in others. There are plenty of us who have struggled or continue to struggle with lack of self-worth and self-confidence, who build walls around our hearts and shut ourselves off, who feel the pain of betrayal and the sorrow of rejection, whose faces flush with humiliation and whose hearts beat with fear.

The sad truth is, I won’t be liked by everyone on this earth, but maybe it’s not because I’m not likable. Maybe it’s just because some people are a little like me with the same hurts, same battles, same stuff of life. I need to remember that God in His infinite wisdom is able to give me the ability to see some of what He sees and heart some of what He hearts. No that’s not a typo…I meant heart, with a ‘t’. It’s only with the tearing down of walls around my heart that I can “live at peace with everyone.” I don’t necessarily have to like someone to love them as Christ does and that’s such a hard truth to grasp.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:14-18

What a mouthful. Lord, fill me.

These days, I’m working to build a life that reflects peace in my relationships. I’m working on building harmony, not conflict…self-worth, not self-deprecation…self-confidence, not self-diffidence. How’s that for another mouthful? Because, truthfully, peace in my inner self will affect how I see others, how I treat them, how I bless them, how I pray for them…AND…it just might affect how others see me, too. Maybe. You never know.

I may wish I could be liked by everyone I meet, but I know it’s not likely to happen on this earth. Instead, I’ll just wish for this peace that reflects a heart without walls. I’ll try my best to do my part, as much as depends upon me, and then I think I’ll just let God be God and take care of the rest…