“You don’t have to be friends, but you have to be friendly.”
This is a conversation I’ve had many times with my children. They are learning that there are some people that they just don’t like and I’m trying to teach them that although it is perfectly fine not to be friends with them, it is still important to be friendly.
As I’m trying to teach this to my children, I’m looking around at adults and realize that this must be a harder lesson than I previously thought. There are so many instances of snark, passive aggression, and outright nastiness among otherwise intelligent and functional adults that it is suddenly clear that everyone struggles with this rule.
I’ve heard the same justification for this behavior from kids and adults alike:
- Why be nice to him, he wasn’t nice to me?
- She had it coming.
- I can’t be fake. If I don’t like you I’m going to make sure you know it.
None of these reasons make enough sense to warrant the negative emotional impact to either person involved. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Three left turns might make a right turn, but even three wrongs don’t make a right. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Here is a quote that I love:
“Love all. Trust a Few. Do wrong to none.” William Shakespeare
The first step must be to accept that statement. I get that this is a big thing to ask. I’ve met some really seemingly unlovable people. Do I really have to love all? Even the people I don’t like? You love your children but I’m willing to bet that there are times that you don’t ‘like’ them. Same with your spouse, parents, and siblings. I can appreciate that every human on this earth has an importance, a soul, and an energy that is intertwined with mine and our shared world in ways that are beyond comprehension. For this reason I can love everyone. But I don’t have to like them. And I don’t have to be friends with them. Furthermore, I can look at a person and say that while I may not like “this” about them, there is also “that” about them which may be quite admirable and enjoyable. We don’t have to like everything about a person but we also don’t get to cast off their whole worth, or their existence, just due to the things about them we don’t like.
Trust a Few.
Loving all isn’t the same as trusting all. Trust is a special and fragile thing. It should be reserved for only those who have earned it. We don’t have to give away access to the innermost parts of ourselves just because we love others. We can love them as explained above and have healthy boundaries. I’ve had a harder time with this step than the first. I’m a lover. I’m guilty of trying to turn way too many people, and the wrong people, into close friends. Unfortunately, not everyone deserves, or even wants, a piece of my heart. I’ve given away trust only to be hurt that it wasn’t appreciated and protected in return. I don’t have to be friends with everyone. I don’t have to trust everyone. Not being friends doesn’t mean I don’t love and honor the importance of another person. It means that I’m protecting myself. Discretion with our trust can help preserve our love for others. Healthy boundaries and expectations can help maintain our ability to love all.
Do wrong to none.
Only when the first two statements are accepted and followed does this one make sense. There are some people that I simply find annoying or unlikable. Others have done me wrong and hurt me. My natural inclination in the past has been to want them to know that I don’t like them and to make it clear that they do not occupy a place of trust or friendship in my life. But that is hurtful in return and suddenly I am no better of a person than I’m accusing them of being. If I accept that I can love someone, without trusting them, then I can accept that I do not have the right to hurt them or do them wrong. It’s not being fake or insincere to be nice to people I don’t like. It might be if I were to go out of my way to spend time with them or pretend that I’m sharing my heart and soul with them. In the casual carrying on with life though, it is simply the right thing to do no wrong. We don’t need to snub, snark at, or be cold to the people we don’t like. We gain nothing from doing harm to others. All it does is stockpile negative feelings in our own heart and soul. It’s time to empty our hearts of all the built up negativity and start to actively seek love and positivity to replace it. I’ve learned that when I love all and trust few, my desire to do wrong to anyone is so greatly diminished that I start to forget why it ever made sense in the past.