The narrative looks different for every person but the story is we've all dealt with difficult people at one point or another. Whether it was a student in school, a family member, or stranger we have all encountered someone who is just difficult to love.
This is a story about cherishing hard love.
I've spent the last five years mentoring a group of girls who are now juniors in high school. My girls are rotten to the core and I love them with all my heart. They are beautiful, care-free, and devious. The only reason they don't get away with their shenanigans is because I claim to be worse than they. Any stunt, teenage criminal act, or prank they pull I promise them I've already done it and did it better than they. I warn them not to prank me or I will get them back 10-fold! (Insert evil laughter: Mwahaha.)
Quick side story: One day the youth group took a retreat to some cabins in Tennessee. On retreats we collect phones so the kids can focus on the challenges and get away from life at home. I brought my plastic bag and infiltrated my girl's room to ask for their phones. One of my kids gave me her phone and for some odd reason I had a hunch that she was lying. She handed me her phone and I commanded, "Hm. Give me your REAL phone."
I had no reason to be suspicious beyond the gut feeling telling me they were pulling a stunt. She replied, "That IS my real phone."
After going back and forth for a bit I stood still and looked around the room to see where she could possibly hide her real phone. I noticed the VCR player to my left. With the room in total silence my fingers lifted the flap-cover, reached inside of the black box, and slowly pulled out her REAL phone. Her mouth dropped. I think they were partly impressed and astounded that a leader toppled their mission. I proved to them that I will ALWAYS be more devious than they. And that was off a mere hunch.
These are my girls. I love them. But sometimes the people you love dearest are the hardest ones to love.
One of these girls and I were having a conversation over messaging one Thanksgiving Day afternoon. She was having a rough week and I was encouraging her. Out of no where she fired at me, "You're such a bitch. I'm so tired of you, why can't you just leave me alone?"
I paused because I felt a blend of hurt, confused, and a little hacked off. I began typing a response but decided to set my phone aside and give it a second. I let my mind run over thoughts of what was going on, how she could be mad at me, what I did, where this spurred from ... And then it hit me.
This amazing kid had been betrayed, misused, ignored, hated, and hurt time after time in her short life-span. She was putting me to a test.
I picked up my phone and responded, "You can push me away all you want but I'm never leaving you. You can screw up every day and I will never be mad at you. Nothing you do will ever make me disappointed in you because I don't hold expectations. You are amazing as you are. I love you. I'm not giving up."
Her response was filled with peace as she dealt with the shock of the first person who had ever responded in such a manner. To this day she has never acted out irrationally against me.
Here's the thing: People who have been hurt and betrayed in their lifetime can't trust others. This kid was putting me to the test whether she realized it or not. When she screws up, they are disappointed. When she yells, they leave. When she inflicts pain, they hit back.
She put me to the test to see if I would do the same.
Don't leave me.
Don't hate me.
Don't hurt me.
Loving people is hard. Sometimes people just need patience, trust, love -- things that are failing in a world divided between the selfish and self-less.
Who are these people in your life?
The old lady customer
The grumpy clerk
The homeless man that gets under your skin
Anyone and everyone, especially those who's stories are untold.
Sometimes people have no reason to trust humanity. And sometimes anger is a test acting as a defense mechanism.
Consider this next time you encounter a person you don't understand.
Return hate with love.
Irrationality with patience.
Pain with kindness.
Return what had been taken from them and expect nothing back. Have you guys ever experienced anything like this? How did you handle it? Drop me a comment! Let's chat.
Until next time, Cara Hope Starns